From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Green to appear at Zionism Victoria’s forum. Greens candidate for the seat of Melbourne Ports Steph Hodgins-May says she was unaware that a candidates’ forum she is set to take part in will be hosted by Zionism Victoria. The forum, to be held on June 22 and will include Hodgins-May, Labor MP Michael Danby and Liberal candidate Owen Guest, is hosted by both the Australian Jewish News and Zionism Victoria. The electorate, which takes in Melbourne suburbs such as St Kilda, Elwood, Port Melbourne and Balaclava, has a high proportion of Jewish residents. Danby has long been a supporter of Israel. Following tweets by journalist Jarni Blakkarly yesterday, Hodgins-May sent him a direct message on Twitter, which he has since published, saying “your tweet was the first I learned of Zionism Victoria hosting so I plan to follow up with the organisers”. Crikey attempted to contact Hodgins-May this morning but has not heard back.

jarni tweet

Zionism Victoria’s website says it is the recognised roof body representing the Jewish community on all aspects related to Israel. It says “the media has been plagued with bias towards the Palestinian cause”.

Zionism Victoria has already hosted Foreign Minister Julie Bishop during this election campaign. Australian politicians have been criticsed in the past for appearing at conservative Christian events such as the Australian Christian Lobby’s annual conference. On the other side of the Yarra, the Labor and Greens candidates for the seat of Melbourne (held by the Greens’ Adam Bandt) will participate in a debate hosted by the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network next week.

The boats that stop themselves. It’s not only Australia that has problems building warships. Reports from the Old Dart overnight have revealed a quite incredible situation — Britain’s new 1 billion pound (nearly A$2 billion) Type 45 destroyers suffer from heatstroke and can’t operate in the warm waters of the Persian Gulf (or presumably warm waters in Asia or anywhere near the equator) without coming to a halt. For the country that invented “gunboat diplomacy” it is the final insult. A House of Commons Committee heard that the power systems of the six destroyers stop operating in warm waters because the systems were not designed for such operations. The Financial Times reported:

“Executives from BAE SystemsRolls-RoyceNorthrop Grumman and General Electric were grilled by the defence select committee about the failures that have caused the UK’s newest and most advanced destroyers to break down repeatedly in recent years, leaving them without power for propulsion or weapons systems. Responding to questions about why the power systems failed in warmer waters than the UK, John Hudson, managing director of BAE Systems maritime, said the original specifications for the vessel had not required it to sustain extremes. ‘The operating profile at the time was that there would not be repeated or continuous operations in the Gulf,’ he said. Tomas Leahy, of Rolls-Royce naval programmes, said the destroyer was now operating in ‘far more arduous conditions than envisaged in the specifications’.”

The boats are all electric and are powered by a combination of gas turbines and diesel engines. The turbines slow down in warm temperatures, the diesel engines cannot provide sufficient extra power to make up for the shortfall, and the whole system eventually comes to a halt. And what is Britain doing to fix the problem? Cutting holes in the hulls of each of the ships to install two extra diesel engines, making four in total. The cost has not been given, but is expected to be in the tens of millions of pounds. It’s a good thing the “other side” in the Gulf haven’t sent attackers to deal with these gunboats.

Mobilising the troops. The principal of Scots College in Sydney has mobilised the Old Boys’ network in protest at the Sydney Morning Herald’s reporting of the school’s position on accepting and teaching the children of gay couples.

Yesterday, SMH education reporter Eryk Bagshaw wrote about a September 2015 meeting of the NSW general assembly of the Presbyterian Church at which the school asked the church for guidance about how to deal with such issues. The motion tabled in response, in minutes of the meeting, restates the church’s position that “homosexual sex is contrary to God’s law, and so is a sin”, and makes multiple references to the “homosexual agenda” — a term used to refer to the normalising of gay relationships in society.

But the school itself says there’s no story, and that it’s being lumped in with views and people it has nothing to do with. Principle Ian Lambert wrote to graduates yesterday saying the piece was only the latest in a “pattern of persecution by Fairfax media”.

Lambert says Bagshaw contacted the school over a month ago (it’s released his questions and their responses) asking what it would do if the child of gay parents asked to enrol (the school wouldn’t have an issue with it). Lambert objected to Bagshaw’s placement of the school’s request for clarity from the Presbyterian Church in a broader backlash against gay families taking place in America and here, and with the banning of the film Gayby Baby last year. Lambert wrote:

“It is simply unprofessional that Mr Bagshaw did not even bother to ask me a question regarding the Safe School program, yet he managed to make time to get a comment from an unnamed spokeswoman even though almost a month has elapsed.

“It would seem that The Sydney Morning Herald is seeking evermore hyperbolic headlines in an effort to attract visitors to their website. Our College, because of our excellent reputation, is an easy target.”

A response from SMH managing editor Stuart Washington to Lambert’s complaint says the paper has agreed to publish a clarification noting the use of the term “homosexual agenda” wasn’t used by the school, but by the Presbyterian Church assembly:

“Apart from this clarification — necessitated mainly by the headline — the Herald believes the article is a reasonable account of the Presbyterian Church’s position on this matter, the political context in which this position has been taken, and appropriately sought Dr Lambert’s response to this matter of significant public interest.”

The college is seeking a meeting with SMH editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir over the coverage and is lodging a complaint with the Press Council. It will also in the “near future” be holding “a forum for parents and Old Boys who work in, or are connected to, the media industry”. Handy connections if you have them.

Where is George Pell? Earlier this week a caller to 3AW said George Pell had been spotted at a Melbourne airport lounge, and the caller wondered if his health issues had cleared up. Was it indeed Pell? Turns out no, the Cardinal is in the Vatican, retiring, but not actually retiring.

ALA has facts. Look at them! Facts! While we are past the halfway point of the election campaign, the number of flyers received by voters from political parties now includes a new player — the Australian Liberty Alliance. The ALA’s main policy is stopping “the Islamisation of Australia” and even includes a very official-looking pie graph that says that 50% of Australians “think ‘an increase in Muslim migrants’ has been bad or very bad for Australia”. The statistics all have an asterisk next to them, but we’re not sure what that actually refers to.

ALA Flier 1 ALA flier 2

Stopping the boats in WA. Meanwhile in Western Australia, the Liberal Party is targeting voters in the new seat of Burt by attacking Labor’s record on asylum seekers. It contrasts Bill Shorten saying “Labor’s policy is clear”, with candidates who have previously expressed issues with the way asylum seekers are treated.

Liberal flier 1liberal flier 2

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Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey