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From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

New kid on the think tank block. You know the IPA, there’s the Lowy Institute, the Sydney Institute, the Australia Institute, the Grattan Institute and other “policy” chatterboxes. Now there’s a new one on the way. Magellan Financial Group, a 10-year-old listed investment manager (with $40 billion under management) is planning a small operation next year. In the company’s 2015-16 financial report released yesterday, directors revealed that:

“… we are planning to invest further in people and capability. Whilst we have largely completed the build out of the Investment team we are planning to make additional hires in many areas of the business including in Distribution (both in Australia and the United States), Compliance, Trading, Finance, Operations and Administration. We are also planning to establish a public policy institute based in Australia and we plan to hire a team of 3 people in 2016/17 (including an Executive Director to head the institute).”

So where will this new player sit on the political spectrum? It’s hard to say. Co-founder Hamish Douglass sits at 128 in BRW‘s Rich 200 list of fund managers, and other co-founder Chris Mackay is at 98 on the same list. Magellan was originally backed by James Packer. We’ll have to wait and see.

Light on the hill. After the Nauru files, the failed census and the Olympics, it feels like the election was more than just six weeks ago, but the result in the Senate was only finalised last week. Political parties across the spectrum are totting up wins and licking wounds, as well as doing the numbers. That’s what we assume was the point of this blog by assistant secretary of the Victorian Labor Party Kosmos Samaras, who posted yesterday on the success of the Greens in traditionally Labor-held electorates, especially in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. His analysis of the Greens’ success and issues with reaching voters is pretty vanilla, but it opens with this throwback to the good old days before the pesky Greens got in the way of Labor’s factional games:

“Politically, Labor’s biggest challenge in the 1990s was managing the branch stacking wars that had plagued this area for a good decade or two.

“Back then if you were active in Labor politics and living in the area your main focus was only mastering internal factional politics. Running marginal seat campaigns was someone else’s problem. Those pesky outer suburban activist had the hard job of actually convincing voters to vote for Labor as opposed to the much easier task of simply buying off some ethnic party warlord for an internal ballot or two.

“I still vividly remember the huge amount of time people in Labor invested at winning internal ballots right across the Northcote and Thornbury corridor. An activist was rewarded if they were able to score a win against an internal opponent, or even better, secure a seat for their faction. If you were one of the lucky individuals to be actually preselected for one of these seats then you were guaranteed a seat for ‘life’.

“Fast forward to 2016 and this peculiar Labor culture looks decidedly archaic.”

Inspiring stuff.

Census fail continues. While the Australian Bureau of Statistics tries to salvage what is left of the census, it’s not just the failure of computer systems that the bureau needs to deal with. Two tipsters employed by the ABS as field officers have got in touch, with one saying the workers are “in revolt”:

“Due to ridiculously low work hours allocations in individual contracts, the visit phase collection of paper census forms is under a huge threat of not happening. Field Officers who have reached the end of their allocated hours will not be going out into the field for collection until such time as ABS HR make available the necessary time and incidental allowances to ensure that Field Officers are correctly remunerated.”

Another tipster tells us that they have been told to start work, but actually doing so is a challenge:

“I am supposed to start today as a field officer to follow up on those who have not filled in forms (non-compliance). But I am still waiting to start! Received an SMS yesterday from Census HR to log into Collect Staff Workspace for info from [redacted] and ‘looking forward to you starting this week.’ However it seems my ABS log-on no longer exists?”

Apple v banks, self-awareness left at the door. Crikey reported last month on three of Australia’s biggest banks asking the ACCC if they can team up to negotiate against tech giant Apple to use the payments technology embedded in iPhones. It’s not fair, they whined, that Apple won’t let them double charge their customers, and they’re too small to negotiate with Apple alone.

Apple isn’t having any of it, unsurprisingly. In a response uploaded to the ACCC’s website last week, Apple pointed out that three of the banks involved, Commonwealth, Westpac, and NAB account for 66% of credit card balances in Australia. So Apple needs them in order to get a significant footing for Apple Pay in Australia.

In an amusing statement considering Apple’s tightly held control over its ecosystem, Apple said the banks perceived Apple Pay as a threat on the banks’ ability to “maintain complete control over their customers”.

If the ACCC allows the banks to negotiate in a bloc, Apple has warned it would allow banks to charge customers to use Apple Pay, and would risk the security of its payments technology by opening it up to the banks. It would have a “lasting and irreversible impact” on mobile payments in Australia, Apple warned.

The ACCC has yet to make a decision.

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

Peter Fray

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