From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

You heard it here first. It was just last month that we received a tip that former treasurer Joe Hockey was considering giving up politics for good, leaving behind the disillusionment of Canberra, where his dreams of being a successful treasurer had slowly drained away. Our tipster told us “his disappointments and frustrations, his defamation case and large costs, young kids, etc, no longer mentioned as a possible successor to Abbott” were all contributing factors to Hockey wanting to get out of the high-pressure job. When we asked Hockey’s office if he would be contesting the next election we were given the answer “it’s safe to assume he will”. Well, we knew it wasn’t safe to assume anything in politics, and with yesterday’s announcement that he would be retiring from the House of Representatives, we’re feeling safer in our assumption we weren’t given a straight answer. Now there are reports in many corners of the media that Hockey will be heading to Washington to replace Kim Beazley as Australia’s ambassador in DC. In a statement he said “I will have more to say in due course,” and although he will be as far away from Canberra games as he can get, we doubt this is the last we will hear from Joe Hockey.

Renewal on a scale seen before. Poor Paul Kelly got a bit carried away today on the front page of The Australian today, declaring that the Turnbull reshuffle was “renewal on a scale never seen before”. Perhaps Kelly was asleep in 2013, when Kevin Rudd replaced Julia Gillard and the country lost its treasurer, minister for communications and Senate leader, trade minister and education minister, and the defence minister declared he’d be leaving politics as soon as there was an election. Still, renewal was certainly the theme of yesterday: Tony Abbott’s cabinet had an average age of 54.3 years (in physical terms; culturally it was more like 350), but that’s now fallen to 50.9 under Malcolm Turnbull, quite a drop. The entire Turnbull ministry is on average 50 years old, while Abbott’s was 51.9. We didn’t bother calculating the average of the parliamentary secretaries — or assistant ministers as they’re now known, overturning a tradition dating from the 1980s — because Wyatt Roy’s appointment as “assistant minister” to Christopher Pyne grossly distorts the numbers. How do those compare to the Labor years? Julia Gillard’s last cabinet — which had lost old hands like Simon Crean and Marn Ferguson — averaged 52 years (Bob Carr and Peter Garrett were the greybeards, at 65 and 60 respectively, in 2013, and yes, Peter Garrett is now well into his 60s — are you feeling old yet?), while the cabinet of the restored Kevin Rudd averaged just over 50.

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Canberra’s House of Cards. Over the past week many comparisons have been made between new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife, Lucy, with fictional power couple Francis and Claire Underwood, of Netflix’s House of Cards. The Underwoods are known for backroom deals and epic levels of manipulation to get themselves into power. This morning the comparison was put to the new PM by David Koch on Sunrise, and Turnbull’s answer made it seem like the idea wasn’t completely new to him:

Turnbull said he had very little in common with Frank Underwood, except that he also uses a rowing machine. Even though the Emmys are taking place in Hollywood right now, the show’s social media managers found the time to respond to our own Underwood:

Can-do Campbell. It’s not even a year since Queensland ousted one-term premier Campbell Newman, bringing the “can do” government to an end. It was announced soon after that Newman would be writing a book about his time as premier, to be co-written with journo and former MP Gavin King. Despite being rejected by University of Queensland Press, the book is already set to be released, after being picked up by Ballarat-based publisher Connor Court, which is known for publishing the works of many conservative pollies and commentators. The book will be out in time for Christmas, with a launch party hosted by the Australian Institute for Progress at Brisbane’s Tattersalls Club next month. It’s no cheap wine and nibbles event, either, with the cheapest tickets $100 a head. The invite says the price includes a two-course meal and drinks — but it looks like the book is extra. The Tattersalls Club is the same men’s only club where the LNP held its International Women’s Day lunch earlier this year — obviously a favourite of the LNP set.

Reaping the spoils. As we get used to quite a few new faces in cabinet, it’s time to start to get to know them better. Western Australian Senator Michaelia Cash has been promoted from minister assisting the prime minister for women to the much simpler Minister for Women, and a tipster who is quite fond of Cash tells us that she is quite the cat lover. Cash’s Facebook page features a whole album of photos of her cats, called “Michaelia’s Four Legged Children!”

They don’t seem too keen to be photographed, but perhaps Cash could post a few more recent pics — might help in negotiations with the Senate’s other noted cat fan, David Leyonhjelm.

Books optional? Does a university need books? We know that some university students seem to get by with barely stepping foot in a library or understand the Dewey Decimal System, but a tipster tells us that books are falling victim to the budget squeeze at Australian National University:

“Last week the ANU announced its ranking in the top 20 world universities. But how many other top universities currently have a blanket freeze on buying any books for the ANU library system? Evidently exchange rates are crippling the ANU library and management is doing nothing about it. Are books no longer necessary to be a top university?”

We asked ANU if there was a freeze on purchasing new books, and why administrators would order such a thing, and received this response from a spokesperson after today’s deadline:

 “ANU libraries continue to buy new text books but have implemented a temporary freeze on the purchase of other new resources. The move is normal practise for the management of libraries, library resources and library budgets.

ANU has already added almost 61,000 new books to its collection in 2015. ANU staff and students also have access to material in other library collections and at other university libraries, including many overseas institutions, through resource-sharing initiatives. At the same time, ANU regularly shares material from its collections through inter-library loans.

ANU libraries are committed to ensuring staff and students have access to the best possible resources.”

When asked to clarify what “other new resources” meant, the spokesperson said modern libraries have lots of resources, including books and other material.

You’re in! You’re out! Councillor Vince Badalati of Hurstville City Council has entered the record books for having the shortest-ever career as mayor of a Sydney borough. The Labor councillor attended last week’s Bill O’Reilly Oration at Hurstville Oval, where his election to the mayoralty was announced and greeted with spontaneous celebrations. However, the clapping and backslapping were short lived. Across the city, Local Government Minister Paul Toole, the National MP for Bathurst, was putting the finishing touches to a press release to sack Hurstville Council for a period of three months. Using his powers under the Local Government Act, Toole ordered an investigation into “numerous failures of the required standard of governance and legal compliance” at the town hall. The suspension is in place while the government investigates allegations of legal and compliance issues at the council under previous mayor Con Hindi. An interim administrator, yet to be named, will manage the council while the mayor takes an unscheduled break.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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