From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Hop a plane to China. Is this enough notice to get to China, or just to make sure the volume is turned up on the TV? The Prime Minister’s media team gave three minutes’ notice for Malcolm Turnbull’s presser this morning — in China.


APH book club. George Brandis charged the taxpayer to read his colleagues’ and mate’s books, as well as Gerard Henderson’s biography of B.A. Santamaria. In the release of politician’s entitlements, among the newspaper subscriptions, flights to and from Canberra and thousands of dollars spent on flags, our elected officials claimed back from the Department of Finance, were many books written by the politicians themselves.

Many MPs use their publication allowances to buy books to stock in their offices to give out to kids at schools, or visits, like Liberal MP Ian Goodenough’s purchase of Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, or To Kill a Mockingbird, but others are less self-evident as to what they’re actually wanting to use it for.

For example, George Brandis purchased Greg Sheridan’s When We Were Young and Foolish, a biography by Sheridan of his time as a student with Tony Abbott, Bob Carr, and Malcolm Turnbull. He also bought a copy of the book on Tony Abbott’s undoing — Battleground: Why the Liberal Party Shirtfronted Tony Abbott, along with Christopher Pyne’s memoir A Letter to My Children. Brandis was one of two MPs — the other being Labor’s Jacinta Collins — to use taxpayer dollars to buy Gerard Henderson’s Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man.

Much is always made of LNP MP George Christensen’s reading habits, and he doesn’t disappoint again this year, with an extensive collection of books on Islam and Islamic State, including:

  • The Secure Freedom Strategy: A Plan for Victory Over the Global Jihad Movement
  • Now They Call Me Infidel
  • ISIS Exposed
  • Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East
  • Shariah: The Threat to America: An Exercise in Competitive Analysis
  • The ISIS Crisis: What You Really Need to Know
  • ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror

He also, for some reason, bought a primer book on libertarianism. He might be able to start a monthly book club with the most unlikeliest of counterparts, with Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon also purchasing ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror.

Some books purchased by MPs point to a contemplation on issues they might be concerned about. Greens MP Adam Bandt purchased After Capitalism, while former government MP turned independent turned former MP Dennis Jensen, known for his romance novelist ways, steered clear of anything too erotic, buying Pyne’s book, as well as, strangely, a copy of Tony Abbott’s now six-year-old book Battlelines, and Paddy Manning’s biography on Malcolm Turnbull, Born to Rule.

Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie bought a copy of Julia Gillard’s book My Story, while Barry O’Sullivan may be the only MP in Australia to subscribe to the New York Post. The politician, who is on the record as being opposed to same-sex marriage, and last year said he had never met anyone who was homophobic, might be revisiting his decision. He bought two books on same-sex marriage: When Gay People Get Married and Same Sex Marriage: Pro and Con. The two titles explain what happens when societies legalise same-sex marriage.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has two interesting titles: The Big Book of Australian History and, if that’s too much, A Shorter History of Australia.

Outside of book purchases, there is one interesting line item from the former member for Mackellar that led to her being the former member for Mackellar.


Rudd’s crushed UN dreams. It’s interesting to observe the international reaction to former prime minister Kevin Rudd in the wake of his aborted bid for the position of Secretary General of the United Nations. The Atlantic’s Uri Friedman spoke to Rudd about his UN report “UN 2030: Rebuilding World Order in a Fragmenting World”, written as chair of the Independent Commission on Multilateralism. In it, Rudd asks if the UN still matters and suggests how it could be more effective in the 21st century. It hasn’t made much of a splash at home, but it gives an idea of what might have been. Friedman spoke to Rudd and writes:

“There is ‘growing evidence of nation-states walking around the UN to solve major problems and then perhaps coming back to the UN when it’s all done as some sort of diplomatic afterthought,’ Rudd told me. The United Nations continues to establish rules for how people and states should conduct themselves in the world. ‘The problem is, if you simply set norms and don’t do anything about the execution of those norms, as the international agency given that function back under the charter of 1945, then you start to lose complete relevance over time.'”

Also in the story is Rudd’s less than glowing assessment of his successors:

“Most striking is Rudd’s assessment of the predicament national political leaders find themselves in, given that he was, not so long ago, one himself. These leaders, he writes, ‘are no longer, in substance, capable of delivering self-contained, national solutions to the problems faced by their people,’ which ‘contributes to a related crisis of legitimacy for the international institutions nation-states have constructed.'”

The report makes passing comment of Malcolm Turnbull’s refusal to back Rudd for the top UN job, and closes “Rudd’s report can ultimately be read as a plea for something pretty basic: to not take the United Nations for granted”. But will the new Secretary General take up Rudd’s opus and run with it?

Health giant impervious to takeover, and profits to charity. Ramsay Healthcare is the acknowledged leader of the Australian healthcare sector — and a major force globally. It is worth $16.2 billion and has been a major player politically here with donations mostly flowing to the Liberal Party, especially when its late founder, Paul Ramsay, was alive. He died in May 2014, and most of his then 36% stake in Ramsay became a charitable trust, the largest in the country — worth then $3.3 billion.

Some of his stake was sold off to meet the terms of his will, but two substantial shareholding notices quietly filed on June 30 and July 1 revealed that the Paul Ramsay Foundation now holds a 32.16% stake in the company, or 64.999 million shares. Last week Ramsay Health reported a 17% growth in profit in the last financial year, and the stock gained 21% in the last year. At last Friday’s close Ramsay Health was worth $16.2 billion and the foundation’s stake was valued at a more than $5.28 billion. That will generate more than $73 million in dividend income in the past year for the charity.

If the trust were a person, it would be close to the sixth-richest individual in the county, challenging James Packer (an estimated $6.08 billion) for that slot. Indeed, were Paul Ramsay still alive, he would be challenging Packer. The foundation makes Ramsay Health Care impervious to takeover, much to the chagrin of any number of urgers and coat tuggers in the investment banking class, hedge funds and others (such as excitable media types) who resent the flow of money away from them to the foundation and charitable works.

The Ramsay Foundation made its first major grant in June, to the Beacon Foundation for an education program in regional Tasmania. The June 30 filing for the Paul Ramsay Foundation was the first being titled “Notice of an initial substantial holder”. The notice filed July 1 was a change of substantial notice — the reduction from just over 36% to 32.16%. Attached to that notice was the details of the grant of probate for Paul Ramsay’s estate on September 25, 2014. Intriguingly the probate notice reveals Paul Ramsay’s will was dated February 21, 2014, and his date of death was just two and a half months later on May 1.

Cory’s Wooden Spoon. With the AFL home and away season over, offices and households around the country are dishing out the spoils to the winners and losers of tipping competitions. Senator Cory Bernardi posted on Twitter that he had won “yet another last place in office footy tipping Comp. Bedazzled wooden spoon and CFC tissues to cry into. Priceless.” The decorated wooden spoon really is a glorious prize, but Ms Tips wonders if maybe tipping his beloved Blues was what tripped the South Australian Senator up in the competition. Tipping with one’s heart is not a successful technique, as has been learned the hard way in the Crikey bunker.

Bernardi wooden spoon

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