From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

All the way with IPA. In the Institute of Public Affairs weekly newsletter yesterday, James Bolt reported the free-market think tank had a successful election, with many of its members elected or re-elected:

“IPA members Senator Bob Day (Family First, SA) and Senator David Leyonhjelm (LDP, NSW) have been re-elected to the Senate. Both Senator Day and Senator Leyonhjelm are two of the over a dozen senators committed to repealing section 18C. The IPA will be well represented in the Senate — watch returning Senator James Paterson explain on Sky News on Wednesday why we shouldn’t have a Treaty.”

We found the phrase “the IPA will be well represented in the Senate” an interesting choice of words — are these senators IPA members first, or representatives of their state first? Imagine if GetUp claimed that it was well-represented in the Senate. Will Eric Abetz and George Christensen be calling for an inquiry into the IPA soon?

ABS: trust us! The Australian Bureau of Statistics has been telling anyone who will listen just how great it is at security, and how our data will be safe with them, because they have never had a breach. While this reasoning is optimistic at best, and negligent at worst, our tipsters have pointed out that the ABS already has a less than stellar record when it comes to online security. A tipster, employed by the ABS as one of its contracted census staff, received this email yesterday after an ABS staffer failed to hide the email addresses used in a group email:

Good afternoon,

Recently you may have received an email from Census HR requesting you provide your emergency contact details to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

It has come to my attention that this email was sent to a number of other recipients with email addresses in the ‘To’ field rather than the ‘Bcc’ field, which may have resulted in your email address being visible to other recipients.

I sincerely apologise for this mistake.

I also want to reassure you that the ABS takes security of your personal information very seriously and has a number of internal procedures in place to avoid issues such as this. In this instance the matter resulted from human error in not following standard procedures.

Census HR has notified ABS Senior Management and has taken internal actions to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

To avoid the possibility of further disclosure, could you please delete the email from [redacted] of the 2nd August 2016.

Again, my sincerest apologies for this error. Please feel free to contact me directly if you would like to discuss further.

Another tipster had their concerns about the ABS’ security in the face of hacking attempts confirmed by the ABS website’s own disclaimer. Under the heading “Security of the ABS website” users are told:

“The ABS applies a range of security controls to protect its website from unauthorised access. However, users should be aware that the World Wide Web is an insecure public network that gives rise to a potential risk that a user’s transactions are being viewed, intercepted or modified by third parties or that files which the user downloads may contain computer viruses, disabling codes, worms or other devices or defects.

“The Australian Government accepts no liability for any interference with or damage to a user’s computer system, software or data occurring in connection with or relating to this website or its use. Users are encouraged to take appropriate and adequate precautions to ensure that whatever is selected from this site is free of viruses or other contamination that may interfere with or damage the user’s computer system, software or data.”

And they wonder why we have issues with our names, addresses and other identifying information being stored for years on their servers …

Leaking advertisers at The OzAfter The Australian cartoonist Bill Leak’s little sketch on a perceived lack of parental responsibility towards children in Aboriginal communities he received widespread censure. As you would expect, today’s Oz contains a vigorous defence, both from editor-in-chief Paul “Boris” Whittaker and Leak himself, who refers to social media outrage as having been perpetuated by “tweety birds” who, like children, “can’t understand things” and so “lash out and throw tantrums”.

But while the Oz seems pretty happy with the attention, its advertisers are not. In the paper yesterday was an ad from Suncorp Bank. It started getting social media heat from early afternoon — and quickly distanced itself from the paper. According to a tweet this morning, it is “working with its media placement agencies to remove our advertising from this content” …


Meanwhile, the Adelaide Festival, another advertiser in the edition, says it doesn’t endorse Leak’s sentiments and booked its ad well in advance, but stops short of threatening future advertising with the Oz


Of course, advertisers threaten to pull their ads all the time from media outlets, often for negative coverage of their own affairs. So we’re not sure the Oz will be quickly cowed by a bit of lost revenue. And there is another commercial consideration to publishing Leak: his takes have a history of offending, which does draw a certain supporter base who subscribes to the Oz because of that.

This morning, New Matilda went through the paper and singled out all the advertisers in yesterday’s edition of the Oz. None of the others mentioned in the piece have so far publicly responded. This morning, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said:

“Although Australian cartoonists have a rich tradition of irreverent satire, there is absolutely no place for depicting racist stereotypes.”

Murdochs need a prince. Very quietly, the main Murdoch family company, 21st Century Fox, has dropped the four year-plus part suspension of voting rights on its B-class shares held by foreign shareholders. The suspension started in April 2012 when the company found that more than 25% of its shares were held by foreigners, which is against United States law that restricts foreign ownership of television assets to a maximum of 25%.

Fox owns broadcast station licences in connection with its ownership and operation of 28 stations. Following the elimination of the suspension, Fox told the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it “remains in compliance with applicable US law”.

Fox didn’t disclose what the level of foreign ownership of the company’s voting shares had fallen to. But it’s known that in April 2012, before the suspension, around 36% of the B-class shares were owned by non-Americans. The Murdochs control Fox via their 38% holding of the voting shares, but they have no A-class non-voting shares left after selling them down over the years (including to finance the restructure of the trust that controls the family stake in it and in News Corp).

The foreign shareholders included key Murdoch backer Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, cutting his voting rights from 7% to 3.5%, as well as all Australian holders of class-B shares. The quiet announcement this morning says the decision to drop the suspension was taken on Tuesday, the day before Fox released its fourth quarter and 2015-16 financial results. It means Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal can now vote his stake in full. Perhaps the Murdochs feel they might need support at the company’s annual meeting later this year in the event of a challenge from restive shareholders. The company’s shares are down 17% in the past year, including a 4% slide overnight Thursday.

Vice guys finish first. Universities have always paired final-year students with commercial organisations, formally or informally, to help them out when it comes to the job markets. But eyebrows have been raised at the decision by the University of Technology, Sydney to train all its final-year communications students on how to pitch for a company like Vice Media.

According to course documentation seen by Crikey, the students in the Communication Capstone Project (all those graduating from a wide range of media and comms courses) are required to create a “communication project” that works for one of Vice Media’s channels. Given the wide range of students in the course, it could be a piece of reporting, a creative writing piece, a publicity campaign or a short film. The best pieces could be used by Vice, whose team gives a guest lecture to students at the beginning of the course and has recommended readings so students have a better feel for what it’s after.

According to the first week’s lecture, Vice was chosen because its content is targeted towards “millennial audiences” and because it could mentor and pay the best students for the use of their work. Crikey understands it’s at least the second time the assessment has been used, and it’s been controversial in previous years with some students, who don’t appreciate Vice‘s highly commercial, gonzo style. The lecturer seems to have anticipated some of the criticisms — the course slides include a detailed list of what students shouldn’t fear from the partnership …


Ms Tips has another query: is Vice really the best place to be training students to work in? Its Australian team is tiny and mostly commercial (it has around half-a-dozen people in full-time editorial roles in Australia). While legacy outlets may not be as cutting edge, they are in a position to employ a lot more UTS graduates …

Happy Birthday, Mr President. Yesterday was United States President Barack Obama’s birthday, and while most of us would be struggling to find the right gift for the most powerful man in the world, his Vice-President Joe Biden has had no such trouble. Biden tweeted this photo of his gift for Obama, who he described as “a brother to me, a best friend forever”. Ms Tips remembers friendship bracelets like these as a childhood trinket, but is ready to support them becoming fashionable again …


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

Peter Fray

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