From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Jobs for the boys. Attorney-General George Brandis yesterday announced a flurry of appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Federal Court. Most will be relatively uncontroversial, such as former Federal Court justice Dennis Cowdroy to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, or the current Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, Robert Bromwich, to the Federal Court. One intriguing choice for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, however is Don Morris. The profile Brandis distributed to journalists confirms Morris’ most recent position was as a “Senior Adviser to the then-Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator the Hon Eric Abetz” but says his previous experience is as a state government adviser and private secretary to the president of the Senate.

But a quick Google search reveals that Morris appears to be a Liberal Party lifer, having worked for the party his entire life since university. A profile of Morris from when he ran in the 2014 Tasmanian state election shows that Morris went straight to working for a Liberal senator after university, then worked for the governor of Tasmania, and for Liberal leader Will Hodgman, and Victorian premiers Ted Ballieu and Denis Napthine. It appears Morris took a job in Abetz’s office after failing to win a seat in the 2014 election.


Just what qualifications does Morris have that makes him an appropriate choice for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal? A spokesperson for the Attorney-General did not respond by deadline.

Morris has been appointed to the tribunal full time for five years. The amount he is paid has not been disclosed, but a tipster estimates his wage would likely be between $179,000 and $230,000 per year.

July election? It now seems almost a certainty that, despite possible issues with supply that will result by calling an election right after budget in May, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is likely to call an election on May 12th, two days after the budget is handed down, for a double dissolution election to be held on July 2. After dining with the PM last night, independent Senator Glenn Lazarus reported he expected that to be the timing of the election. Although Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce (it still feels weird to type that) was downplaying it as “possible but not probable” this morning, Innovation Minister Christopher Pyne told the Today Show this morning that July would be a good time for an election, given Australia hasn’t had a July election since the 1980s.

It was enough for betting agency William Hill to suspend betting on when the election will be called. Ms Tips is taking that as confirmation, although it does now lead to questions on when exactly the budget will be held, and whether the budget bills will pass Parliament before the election to keep the government running in the meantime.

Maccas for Lazza. While it seems the dinner in the Lodge was full of juicy information on election timing for the independents who attended (Motoring Enthusiasts’ Party Senator Ricky Muir declined an invitation after Turnbull all but name-checked him as the reason why the government was embarking on Senate voting reform), it appears that the food itself was not as filling for some. Lazarus told the ABC this morning, and tweeted that the meal was good, but the portion sizes were so small that he had to stop at McDonald’s on the way home.


Lazarus said the dinner was a “waste of time” for himself and Jacqui Lambie because Turnbull answered very few of their questions, but said that it would have been better “if we all had Cuban cigars, it would have been fitting because it was a very Liberal gathering”.

A glittery parade of awful. While New South Wales Parliament this week apologised for the way the protesters in the very first Mardi Gras in 1978 were treated, there was a completely different display in federal Parliament. While there was a lot of support for Safe Schools from many Labor and Greens MPs and senators, a number of Coalition (and Labor) MPs and Senators said pretty alarming things about the program. Liberal MP Luke Simpkins said he’d never met a homophobe in his life (what a wonderful life that must be), while George Christensen said Safe Schools “leaves students open to being groomed on websites advertising adult sex venues” (the internet super sleuth determined this by essentially following one link to another site, and another site and then found a website for a sex venue).

Then the mother of the trans boy who the Australian Christian Lobby is using in its campaign against Safe Schools went on ABC radio and said that the ACL had never sought permission to use his photo in their campaign. ACL managing director Lyle Shelton said that the organisation didn’t mean to cause distress and has now removed the photo from the ACL’s campaign. But on a positive note, the campaign against Safe Schools has led to one positive outcome: someone decided to buy and make it, well, rather gay.


The Senator himself owns the dot com address, but not the dot com dot au address.

Where did he go? Speaking of the Australian Christian Lobby, Crikey earlier this week reported on some of the potential backers of the lobby that gets close to $3 million in donations every year. In that article, we named ACL board director Mark Allaby, who also happens to be a senior executive of PricewaterhouseCoopers. After our report, a number of people complained to PwC, and the diversity group of which it is a member, PrideInDiversity, over Allaby’s position on the ACL board. In an email Ms Tips has seen from a representative of PrideInDiversity, the group suggested PwC was investigating the matter, but suggested PwC would not and should not control what Allaby did in his personal time outside of his work.

Then Allaby’s name mysteriously disappeared from the ACL’s website this week. Does that mean he is gone from the board? Unfortunately neither the ACL or PwC had responded by deadline.

Humble Wyatt. Ms Tips was delighted to hear that young assistant minister for innovation Wyatt Roy won a spot on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia list. And how did Ms Tips find out about this? Why, from the assistant minister himself! In a press release put out yesterday, Roy said he was “incredibly humbled” to be chosen. But not humble enough to resist tooting his own horn, it seems.



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

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey