From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Poor widdle F35. We haven’t heard anything about our favourite flying heap of crap, the F-35, for a while, but just when we were beginning to think things were improving for the fighter jet that can’t fly, shoot or dogfight, comes this. The military blog that revealed the F-35 had lost a dogfight to a hangglider F-16 has now revealed the United States Air Force has ordered its airmen and women to say nice things about the F-35. “Articulate the capabilities of the aircraft and explain it is a capability warfighters must have (explain why we need the F-35),” servicemen and women are ordered. “Debunk false narratives and inaccuracies reflected in news media reporting.” Problem is, there are no false narratives and inaccuracies — the F-35 really did get grounded because its engines caught fire, it really can’t shoot properly until it gets software still a couple of years away, it really lost a dogfight to an F-16, it really does need a special blend of fuel that needs to be transported in special bright white trucks so it doesn’t spoil on the tarmac. If only these were false narratives, we might not be wasting billions of dollars on these things.

Full of hot air. In other aviation news, the RAAF is seeking tenders to supply it with a new hot air balloon system. The air force already has a hot air balloon that is used for public relations events, but maybe this one could compete with the latest F35s.

I see fields of green … As part of the Nationals’ negotiations with new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the department took on water. Not in a sinking way, but the Department became Agriculture and Water, instead of plain old Agriculture. A tipster tells us that bureacrats were only just getting their heads around their last name change:

“This short term ‘fix’ continues to confound many of the department’s external partners in industry and government who had established a long history of trust with the brand. Never mind the loss of the AQIS brand to DAFF in 2012, the department has changed name twice more since then. Good luck convincing foreign agencies, importers, exporters, brokers, shipping agents, freight forwarders, fellow regulators, and foreign governments that we have a brand to be trusted. Each of these name changes results in significant administrative overheads for the department, as I’m sure you are well aware. This latest change comes while the rebranding process from DAFF to Agriculture is still ongoing …

These things are costly and time-consuming and take focus away from the department’s core business. All of these things have a measurable cost to the taxpayer and a resultant drop in service levels to the public, which is harder to quantify. One thing that is not discussed, however, is the impact on staff morale and the damage to relationships with external partners that have taken years to build and nurture. What will be the total cost to the taxpayer when the water resources portfolio is finally shifted back to where it belongs in the department of the Environment? Additionally, the department is now on its third secretary in the two years since the Coalition government came to power, the previous two having being sacked by Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce. What is the long-term vision for the department?”

So while it may seem like a small change, it sounds like the effects will be felt for quite a while in Agriculture and Water.

Pope-peroni. It would be hard to miss that the Pope is in the US this week, with the First Family greeting him as he got off the papal plane, and crowds following Pope Francis wherever he appears. The pontiff is in New York today, with one local making a Pope Pizza:

Social media app Snapchat has also created a special filter for the cities that get a papal visit:

Renewable Energy Party. While the existing Senate crossbenchers have threatened “war” if the government moves to change the way Senators are elected, we hear that micro-parties are still working towards the next election relying on the current rules being in place:

“There is a new group trying to take the 6th Senate spot in Queensland. The ‘Renewable Energy Party’ have free membership and have experienced numbers/preference folk working for them, including the former numbers guy for HEMP and Peter Breen. They are hoping that a good draw and the cuddly name, on top of a micro party deal, will get them a senate spot. Although Northern NSW based, the word is they see Qld as their best chance.”

Peter Breen was formerly a staffer for Senator Ricky Muir and was sacked mid-last year after Muir said Breen had chucked a sickie while Breen was undergoing cancer treatment. Breen was booted shortly after Muir’s chief of staff and preference whisperer Glenn Druery. We asked Breen this morning about the party’s plans and he confirmed that the Renewable Energy Party had submitted its application for registration and was considering the chances of election in many places,  particularly Queensland and Tasmania. When asked if he was working Druery in this latest venture, Breen said: “Is the Pope Catholic?” Breen said the major parties could expect opposition from all corners if they moved against micro-parties and preference deals like the one that got Muir elected, saying the Greens couldn’t rely on the progressive vote. “The Greens rely on smaller parties for preferences, they’ve forgotten their history,” he said.

Tropfest trouble. The film festival Tropfest has come under fire for its spin-off audio competition Tropscore, which asks composers to put together a score for a short film selected by the festival. Composer Jennifer Kingwell has written a blog post criticising the short film chosen:

“An offshoot of the world’s largest short film festival, Tropfest, Tropscore offers a chance for up-and-coming film composers to score a preselected short film. This year, the film is called ‘Remote’, (written and directed by Miguel Noonan), and like many short films, it comes with a twist and a double entendre — the everyman protagonist, Carlos, driving his ute through the remote (see?) Mexican desert is doing so to dig up his buried alive wife to rip the gaffa tape off her mouth and ask her where the remote (geddit?) is. Woman-in-refrigerator/buried-alive-wife (in the credits she doesn’t even get a name. She’s just ‘Wife of Carlos’) just blinks incredulously. Cut to Carlos driving away in his ute, yelling ‘Bitch’! And scene.

“This kind of casual misogyny contributes to a culture of minimisation, trivialisation and acceptance of domestic violence. It makes a punchline out of the fact that 22% of Australians think that domestic violence can be excused if people get so angry they lose control.”

Instead of calling for a boycott of the competition, Kingwell calls on composers to write a “femmo/anti-mysogynistic” score for the film that says that violence against women is unacceptable.

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Peter Fray

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