From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

He can’t help it that he’s so popular.. Yesterday SBS released an interactive feature where users could monitor which politicians follow their colleagues on Twitter — and who follows them back. If it sounds like soemthing that would be invented in a modern-day version of Mean Girls, you are on the right track. While it’s unsurprising that most pollies don’t follow many people from the opposite side of the chamber, what is much more interesting is who they follow — or don’t follow — from their own party. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull follows 58 of the possible 123 Liberal and National MPs, with 93 of the Coalition following him. Most of the time, if Turnbull deigns to follow someone it’s reciprocated, except for Tasmanian Liberal Senator and staunch conservative Eric Abetz and the Nationals’ Bruce Scott. There are a few Coalition MPs who neither follow nor are followed by their Prime Minister — Peter Hendy (who seems to just have an egg profile), Christian Porter (who was promoted in the spill), Speaker Tony Smith, South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi, David Bushby and Stephen Parry.

malcolm turnbull follows

In the Labor camp, there are just two MPs who have no Twitter interaction with their boss Bill Shorten — Laurie Ferguson and Joe Ludwig. The Opposition Leader follows 59 out of a possible 80 Labor MPs, with 64 following him. Shorten doesn’t follow two members of the shadow cabinet (who follow him), though — Mark Dreyfus and Stephen Conroy. Backbencher Pat Conroy is followed by Shorten, but has left his leader hanging, not following him back.

What can we tell from this? Well if it were actually Mean Girls, it could be used to tell who is on the outer with whom.

The tool can be found here, let us know if you get any interesting results.

The kids are all right — and so are we. While many Australians associate the coming weeks of Christmas parties, Boxing Day barbecues and New Year’s Eve events with always having a drink in your hand, new stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that Australians are actually drinking less. Sections of the media and health academics are telling us we’re in the grip of an alcohol epidemic, with binge drinking out of control, drunken violence making our streets unsafe, irresponsible alcohol ads encouraging kids to get drunk and alcohol causing [inserted some made-up number here]% of all deaths. But as Crikey has regularly reported over the years, this is rubbish: Australians drink less than a few years ago and dramatically less than a couple of decades ago, violent crime has fallen significantly in recent years and the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption have been regularly demonstrated. So we weren’t exactly surprised that data this week from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Survey about alcohol consumption wasn’t given much coverage. The survey found that 17.4% of adults drank more than two standard drinks per day on average, down from 19.5% of adults in 2011-12. In fact, that figure has been declining since 2004-05. The proportion of adults engaging in “risky drinking” (set as more than four standard drinks on any one occasion) has also fallen since 2011-12, from 44.7% to 44%. And for those worried about binge-drinking kids, “two-thirds (66.2%) of all 15-17 year olds had never consumed alcohol, an increase from 2011-12 when around half (49.1%) of all 15-17 year olds had never consumed alcohol”. So even if we may over-do it over the next month, it’s safe in the knowledge that the country as a whole is drinking less.

Scrooge on the Border. It’s less than two weeks until Christmas (sorry to tell you that), which means Christmas party season is in full swing. Except for some media organisations, where scrimping and saving has also lead to a deficit in Christmas cheer. Last week we reported that the Ballarat Courier was no longer having a Christmas bash, and now we hear that the Border Mail, based in Albury-Wodonga, is also playing the scrooge, with no party this year. Is it the same for all Fairfax regionals? You can drop us a line here.

Some explaining to do. What’s going on in the west? Ms Tips hears that Foxtel viewers in Western Australia have got more than they bargained for this week, with ABC2’s Sex Week beamed into homes much earlier than over in the east. A caller to 6PR says that for viewers who watch ABC2 through Foxtel, it is shown at the same time at the eastern states — meaning that kids could see content like the special Australians on Porn — well before their bedtime.

Fossil fuels for Christmas. Some entrepeneurs in Woollongong have taken PM Malcolm Turnbull’s message to heart, coming up with an exciting, innovative, disruptive idea that also includes one of the Liberal party’s favourite things — coal. Regan Kerr and Luke Szalla have built the website ““, which allows users to send their friends (or enemies) a piece of coal for Christmas for the affordable price of $19.95. The men behind the website say the coal will be nicely wrapped, and say that the gift also means that a tiny bit less coal will be burnt into the atmosphere. One founder suggested sending a piece of coal to your local MP, but the website says any messages that are “overly mean spirited” probably won’t be included on the card. Ms Tips plans on sending a piece of coal to the Minerals Council of Australia — the most amazing gift they could receive.

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