From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s fondness for emoji is well known for anyone who follows her on Twitter. It was international news when Bishop conducted an all-emoji interview with BuzzFeed. It was this very interview that Labor’s Penny Wong asked her department about in Senate estimates today, asking whether any diplomatic communication occurred using emoji. But first, some explanation for Liberal Senator Chris Back, who did not know what “emoji” were.

Brandis: They’re those little smiley faces you have on your text messages, Senator Back … I think this being a ministry for the 21st century, this mode of communication is not unfamiliar to us.

DFAT officials said that officially, the department did not use emoji on social media, though a few of the 70 Twitter accounts handled by the department had used them, particularly during Eurovision.

Back said he often used thumbs-up and thumbs-down emoji to save time.

Wong: That’s because you’re a binary kind of guy.

DFAT officials said there had never been any advice given to Bishop on her use of emoji. Eventually Back was wondering why Wong was asking about them in the first place.

Back: I presume this is for Strewth, isn’t it?

Eventually Wong quoted Bishop’s red-faced emoji used in response to a BuzzFeed question on Vladimir Putin.

Wong: Do you think that is an accurate or helpful public statement?

Brandis: Context here is everything, and to isolate particular communications and to ask the official about them without the context of the exchange is a little unfair.

Varghese took on notice what the meaning of the red-faced emoji meant, but Bishop was quick to respond on Twitter.

Wong said she had no issue with the use of emoji, but it was different to use emoji to express Australia’s relationship with Russia, US, China, and Indonesia. Brandis said this was “a bizarre characterisation”.

Machiavellian Brandis. Independent Senator Nick Xenophon is running a number of candidates in South Australia against the government. Prior to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull taking the leadership, Xenophon had the very real prospect of picking up lower house seats at the next election. That could still happen, but with Turnbull now in place, it could be much tougher.

In a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday, Xenophon asked Attorney-General George Brandis about an article critical of his decision to make it much harder for Australians to have freedom of information requests reviewed. He declined to read out the article because it would be “ungracious”. When Brandis suggested Xenophon was “a very gracious man”, Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald made an erroneous claim that Xenophon sued other senators. It was corrected, and Macdonald apologised. Brandis insisted Xenophon was “delightful”, a claim Xenophon was none-too-pleased about.

Brandis: I have always found you to be a most delightful colleague, Senator Xenophon.

Xenophon: You know you are going to ruin my vote in South Australia?

Brandis: I am very Machiavellian.

Call me, maybe. Former special minister of state Nick Minchin’s legacy in Parliament has yet to be settled. Some will remember him as the climate sceptic who ultimately helped Tony Abbott’s rise to the leadership and prime ministership, but lately he is being remembered for one thing only: The Minchin Protocol.

The protocol was established in 1998 to deal with issues with MP expenses. Where there are claims of misuse, they are investigated by the Department of Finance, and under the protocol MPs are usually given the opportunity to pay the expenses back. The term has been used more in the last year because it is under this protocol that former high flyer and speaker Bronwyn Bishop was allowed to repay the helicopter flight she booked from Melbourne to Geelong.

In an estimates hearing on Tuesday, Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi asked whether Minchin would like his legacy to be this protocol.

Finance Department secretary Jane Halton: Next time I see him, I will ask him that.

Bernardi: I would suggest you do, because I seem to recall that he is not altogether happy with it.

Halton: I shall. I will ask him exactly that. And, yes, it would be terrible if you were just remembered for the protocol, wouldn’t it?

Labor Senator Joe Ludwig: It is heading that way now!

Labor Senator Katy Gallagher: It is becoming quite famous.

Halton: One does see him occasionally, so I will — if you see him first, you can ask him and let me know what he says.

Bernardi: I shall email him now!

Conrovian ministry. For a while there it seemed Parliament would not shut up about the NBN, but for the past few years Labor seems to have been reluctant to ask anything of the minister for communications. Now that the former communications minister Malcolm Turnbull is the prime minister, it seems Labor can’t ask enough. In question time yesterday there were a full three questions on the National Broadband Network.

Turnbull noted that if there had been one more question from opposition communications spokesman Jason Clare, that would be more questions than Clare had asked in the previous two years combined.

After question time, Clare put out a press release about the state of the NBN, and almost the entire press release was a quote from his predecessor, Stephen Conroy, from a Senate estimates hearing on the NBN the previous day. Ms Tips wonders whether Clare is simply deferring to Conroy’s expertise, or whether Conroy, as he often does in Senate estimates hearings on the NBN, is really running the show. Could the real opposition communications spokesman please stand up?

Heaven forbids. Last Friday, a quartet of “Climate Guardian Angels” descended upon the roof of Greg Hunt’s electorate office in Hastings, on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, to protest the recent re-approval of Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland.

We hear from a tipster that the Minister for the Environment (except the bits with coal in it) was none too pleased with his celestial guests and “‘evacuated’ his office in case the “angels were terrorists” after they started tipping the dregs of their refreshments into the roof’s guttering. Coconut water down a drainpipe isn’t quite anthrax in an envelope, Greg, but you never can be too careful these days.

The angels were up there for nine hours in total. Police Search and Rescue turned up at one point, but they refused to climb up and handcuff the activists (see Pascal’s Wager). The police left, but not before “putting the scare on them about being on a tin roof just before a lightning storm (which passed over with just a sprinkling)”.

Our tipster also tells us the sit-in “sparked an action in Brisbane by a group of women who formed a Brisbane chapter of the Guardian Angels and chalked SOS outside Adani’s offices”.

During the sit-in on Hunt’s office, the angels set off a flare as a symbolic SOS for the environment (see the video below). But with the Turnbull government seemingly no more committed to effective action on climate change than its predecessor, the environment could yet need a more literal divine intervention.

Koala diplomacy. Canada’s dreamy new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (now that is a PMILF, as the kids say) comes from an eminent political family. His father, Pierre Trudeau, was PM himself from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984. When he was leader of the Liberal Party in 1973, Trudeau the elder and his family met Gough and Margaret Whitlam, who presented the young Justin Trudeau (then aged two) with a stuffed koala.

Here’s the letter Pierre Trudeau sent the Whitlams thanking them for the gift. We wonder if Justin still has it …

Ms Tips suggests perhaps Malcolm Turnbull could send a stuffed koala to Trudeau’s own son, Hadrian. Hadrian will be two in February.

Turnbull at age 10. While researching the Prime Minister’s journalistic career, Crikey’s media correspondent came across this delightful essay written by one Malcolm Turnbull, aged 10 and a half …

Alas, it was with profound disappointment that she concluded the Prime Minister could not possibly have written it. It was written in 1948 in the Burnie Advocate — Turnbull would not be born for another 10 years.

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

Peter Fray

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