From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Did a lecturer Godwin Bernardi? Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi was in a huff this week (how very unlike him) over a report in The Daily Telegraph regarding a Sydney University lecture on the treatment of gay people by Nazi Germany in which the Tele alleged that students were told it was “something out of (Liberal senator Cory Bernardi’s) handbook”.

A tipster tells us the paper “totally misrepresented” the lecture. According to the tipster, the lecture was on the non-Jewish victims of the Nazi regime, including LGBTI people and the disabled, and students were shown paragraph 175 of the Wilhelmine Penal Code, which made homosexuality a crime from 1871 to 1994 in Germany. Some 140,000 men were convicted under the code. This section of the law bans homosexuality as well as bestiality. Bernardi has drawn comparisons with the push for same-sex marriage to bestiality in the past. The lecture was designed to demonstrate how some of the rhetoric used against LGBTI people remains the same, says our tipster:

“The students were reminded of the rhetoric used by current opponents to marriage equality (including Senator Bernardi) had contained similar comparisons. At no time was he compared to ‘a Nazi’.

“Later in the session, a statement was made to the effect that the significance of the Nazi period to current social policy debate, such as treatment of asylum seekers, is best understood in the subtle continuities (social, cultural and political) from that time. No comparison was made to concentration camps. It appears that a mischievous and disgruntled student sought to stir trouble with misrepresentations or just lies.”

Marriage equality split. The split between pro-marriage equality groups Australian Marriage Equality — which is preparing for a plebiscite — and Rodney Croome’s new offshoot Just.Equal — which is firmly opposed to one — is becoming very interesting, with Just.Equal’s new campaign against the plebiscite drawing on some of the similar tactics employed by AME. In a letter first dropped to Fairfax, but later issued as a press release by Just.Equal today, one of the Yes campaigners in the Ireland referendum on marriage equality has asked MPs to consider dropping the proposed plebiscite on same-sex marriage.

While AME has Tiernan Brady from the Yes Equality group in Ireland on hand to talk all about how a respectful debate can be held, Yes Equality campaign co-director Grainne Healy has told MPs in the letter that while the group was delighted to be able to achieve equality, the referendum campaign in Ireland was “a brutal affair” that was deeply hurtful for LGBTI families, and full of “untruths and ill-informed hate speech” on TV and radio during the campaign.

It was so bad, she says in the letter, that volunteers door-knocking for the Yes campaign were offered counselling afterwards, upset over negative comments made to them during the campaigning.

“It was a gruelling experience, [but] at least we knew that at the end of it, if we won, we would have full constitutional equality for LGBT marriage rights. To hold a non-binding plebiscite seems to be at the least insensitive to the LGBT community who will bear the brunt of the negative campaigning and at best will lead to an experience of divisive, hurtful campaigning, with no guarantee of progressing marriage equality.”

So far, Labor, the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and Derryn Hinch remain opposed to the plebiscite, so campaigners against the plebiscite are still somewhat hopeful the matter can be resolved via a free vote in Parliament rather than a $160 million plebiscite.

School’s in. It was billed as an opportunity to photograph and have a chat with new senators, with the media yesterday invited to drop in on a presentation by Senate president Stephen Parry for the new chums in a committee room at Parliament House. After the photography was over, however, few senators took up the opportunity to brave the media. Labor’s Pat Dodson — not strictly speaking new but newish — joined new NT colleague Malarndirri McCarthy to answer questions while Labor’s WA returnee, Louise Pratt, hovered nearby. Another newish face, James Paterson from the IPA branch of Victorian Liberals, happily mingled as well. As for the rest — no show. And especially not Pauline Hanson and her 10-point font Queensland off-sider Malcolm “climate change is an international banking conspiracy” Roberts.


Life imitating art imitating life. It’s often joked by people in the public service that they’re sure the Working Dog writers behind the television series Utopia must have spies somewhere leaking them information about what goes on in government agencies, but a tipster tells us that one unnamed agency is actually investigating whether information had been leaked out to the writers:

“Not even the Utopia script writers could not have thought up this one, but have heard from several sources that an investigation is underway in a department in Canberra trying to find the source of a leak to the Utopia production team. That they would acknowledge the satirical show to be, well, not satire at all, is incredulous. I don’t now the department, but the episode which apparently triggered the investigation was about a new Ord Scheme.”

The episode in question appears to be the final from the first series in 2014 where the Nation Building Authority (NBA) is evaluating plans to expand northern Australia’s Ord River Scheme. Know more? Let us know.

Changes for Nine? Struggling Nine Entertainment and Southern Cross Media Austereo, its regional affiliate and Nine’s would-be marriage partner, report their 2015-16 results tomorrow, with both boards meeting today to sign off on the figures. Given the way Seven West Media and Prime Media have revealed weak 2015-16 results (and Seven has slashed this year’s profit estimate by 15% to 20%), Nine and Southern Cross won’t be setting the world on fire — although Southern Cross will be emphasising its two radio networks rather than its weak regional TV operations.

But with the TV industry full of rumours about the longevity of Nine CEO Hugh Marks, could there be another deal on the horizon? Southern Cross’ CEO is Grant Blackley, a former CEO of the Ten Network (who won his battle spurs by being sacked by Lachlan Murdoch, along with now Fairfax Media chair Nick Falloon). Blackley would be the nominee of shareholders in both companies to run a merged group (once the 75% reach rule is abolished by the Turnbull government). Some in the industry claim the change will happen before the rule is abolished because Nine needs an experienced TV executive to run it at a time of disappearing growth options. There will also need to be a change of chairs — Peter Costello currently chairs Nine, and Peter Bush Southern Cross. He knows Nine well, being a former board member. Blackley and Marks used to own a well-known talent agency RGM Artist Group, so any change at Nine should be well-mannered.

You heard it here first. On Monday, Ms Tips reported that Herald Sun state politics editor James Campbell was the likely replacement for Herald Sun national political editor Ellen Whinnett, who is off to head up New Corp’s London bureau. It has now been officially confirmed.

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

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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