From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Xenophon turns on micro-parties? The Australian reports today that Nick Xenophon has written to new Special Minister of State Mal Brough proposing Senate electoral reforms that would make it harder for micro-parties to get elected through complex preference deals. Xenophon proposed that group voting tickets be abolished, with people be required to number at least three squares above the line, or be required to number just 12 candidates below the line.

It’s a bold move from Xenophon, who has in the past wielded considerable influence over the independent and micro-party crossbenchers, who are understandably not keen on any plans that would leave them unable to get elected at the end of their terms. While Xenophon is now the third-biggest force in South Australian politics, pulling almost enough votes for two Senate places at the last election, he seems to have forgotten how he started out. Xenophon was first elected to South Australian Parliament on the back of preferences, but he has since gained enough of a profile to get elected without them.

Wilders locked out? Earlier this year we reported that controversial far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders would be travelling to Australia this month to launch the Australian Liberty Alliance, the new political party associated with the Q Society, but it looks like his plans may be foiled by immigration. The Australian Liberty Alliance said in a press release this morning that Wilders’ visa was yet to be approved, and with the launch approaching on October 20, alarm bells are ringing.

“Despite assurances, in August, that this would be forthcoming it has not been granted. This is unacceptable,”  Liberty Alliance national president Debbie Robinson said.

“Geert Wilders is a democratically elected Dutch MP who requires permanent bodyguards because of his stand against Islamic extremism. All his movements require planning. Recent opinion polls indicate he has an excellent chance of overtaking the ruling Dutch coalition with his Party for Freedom (PVV). If the Australian leader of the opposition was treated in this manner by the Netherlands, we would be outraged.”

And we were so looking forward to the visit …

A tale of two airstrikes. The first Russian bombing raids in Syria immediately elicited criticism from Western countries already engaged in Syria last week, particularly as the Russian airstrikes appear to have killed civilians. Given the Assad regime, which Russia is hoping to prop up, has engaged in industrial-scale slaughter of its own civilian population for the last four years, it’s unsurprising the Russians would be similarly cavalier about any distinction between civilian and combatant on the ground there, but the Russians reject the claims. But the US, along with a number of allies, released a statement calling “on the Russian Federation to immediately cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians”.

Oddly, however, the US has been altogether slower to take responsibility for its own airstrike in Kunduz in Afghanistan, where a hospital run by Medecins Sans Frontieres was destroyed, killing 22 people, including MSF personnel, with horrific reports of patients being incinerated in their beds. What happened? A spokesman for international forces in Afghanistan initially said: “The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.” Now the Americans have promised “a full investigation, and we will await the results of that inquiry before making a definitive judgement”. Requirements for “definitive judgment”, presumably, doesn’t apply to allegations of Russia killing civilians.

Do you want to build a snowman? After the fanfare of its opening, Ms Tips has not paid the Labor Herald the attention it deserves (or perhaps she has?), until now. Late last week the Herald published a video of Senator Sam Dastyari asking his boss Bill Shorten some hard-hitting questions, including whether or not he preferred children’s movie Frozen or pop star Taylor Swift. Shorten found that one a tough one to answer (he went with Tay Tay, for those interested), but found it much easier to give fashion advice to Liberal MPs. Dastyari suggested an old photo of Malcolm Turnbull was “kind of seductive, ya know?”, but Shorten shut that right down, saying “no, I wouldn’t have gone that far”.

A network of two. Senator Jacqui Lambie has unveiled the very first Senate candidate for her eponymous political party, the Jacqui Lambie Network. In a thoroughly on-par video for the Senator, Lambie introduces us to Bob Davis, who runs the at-times controversial Hard Yakka Youth Boot Camp in Hervey Bay, Queensland. Lambie has previously described the boot camp as one of the best programs for helping drug-addicted young Australians. The video includes a reference to Lambie’s son, who she has said is addicted to the drug ice. Davis only speaks vaguely about his policy ideas, but says he is “a hundred percent behind” compulsory national service.

“I think I can do a lot of good for youth,” Davis says in the clip, coming across as a less controversial politician than Lambie herself, save for a brief, tangential dig at the “welfare nation”.

Lambie plans on running candidates in all states, so fingers crossed this will be the first in a series introducing us to her team.

No sniping, no undermining? Former defence minister Kevin Andrews was not keen to give up the position in the ministerial reshuffle under new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, making his feelings known in a press conference that had it all except for an actual toddler throwing a tantrum. This morning Andrews has continued to show an attachment to the role (now held by Marise Payne), tweeting to spruik the government’s announcement of 1000 new Hawkei vehicles to be built in Bendigo, in regional Victoria. The only problem is that Andrews got his tweet on before Payne and Turnbull had actually made the official announcement. Andrews was seen as an odd pick for defence minister when it was announced in December last year, as he had once declared that he had “no interest in defence issues”. It looks like Andrews has taken a leaf out of Tony Abbott’s book — no sniping or white-anting, but making his feelings as obvious as a full invasion.

Uber but for the ABC? If you are yet to take The Age‘s Superquiz and don’t want to know the answers (incorrect though they may be), look away now. A tipster was quick off the mark this morning to tell us that the answer for question five today was not only incorrect, but made no sense at all. The answer to the question “Who is the presenter of 7.30 on the ABC?” is given as “Uber”. Now it’s not only cabbies who can be angry at the ride-sharing app –perhaps it is stealing Leigh Sales’ job as well.

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Peter Fray

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