From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

It’s literally an existential threat. ASIO head Duncan Lewis appears to have caught a nasty disease from Brandis — existentialitis. You might recall that a couple of years ago the Attorney-General began describing Islamic State as an “existential threat” to Australia , a bizarre claim, given, by its own admission, the worst it could do was launch individual attacks that might lead — and has led — to tragedies, but which hardly amount to the destruction of society.

Last night, Lewis also began using “existential” — but like a mutating virus, the usage has changed in its transmission from AG to Director-General. Lewis used it not in reference to Islamic State — sorry George —  but in relation to state-based espionage, which he declared was an “existential threat” to Australia. How spying by, say, China or Russia could amount to an “existential threat” to Australia isn’t clear — we’d have thought “existential” was something more like the possibility of being wiped out in a nuclear exchange, not theft of state or commercial secrets. It seems “existential” has joined that list of words that some of us gamely but futilely fight to retain the actual meaning of — words like “decimate”, “genocide” and “literally”.

Abetz is just helping. Malcolm Turnbull has been struggling in the politics department this week, with the debate over the classification of the Adler shotgun taking over from discussion of the ABCC bills, which passed the House of Representatives yesterday. Industrial relations should be a win for Turnbull, but it looks like even on the topic of IR, his own party can’t keep on message. We’ve already reported that Eric Abetz will be giving the keynote lecture for the HR Nicholls Society’s conference this weekend, but now we know that the society is spruiking the speech as a “‘unique insight’ from his time as employment minister about the need for workplace reform which will likely feature criticism of the current Coalition Government’s lack of ambition on IR.”

That will be very helpful to and incredibly appreciated by the PM, we’re sure. The society is also talking up the credentials of One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts:

“Senator Roberts’ speech, which will touch on the Coalition’s ABCC/double dissolution bills and the lack of leadership on IR in the business community. Roberts is keen to establish himself as an authority in the IR space.”

With an audience like that, we’re sure his authority is not in doubt at all.

Eau de PMIn an in-depth interview with Bridge and Spida on Gold 92.5 this morning, PM Malcolm Turnbull was asked what aftershave he wore. He told the hosts that he didn’t wear aftershave and was “pretty low-tech when it comes to the shaving department”. Just in case anyone wanted any ideas for a Christmas gift, we’ve found one for the man who has everything (we suggest he might be a Boss man).

No money for bands at the Night Noodle Markets. Fairfax’s events division revenues were up 33% for the division in the last financial year, and it was described as a “highlight for the year” in the annual report. But the boom hasn’t necessarily resulted in riches for those whose work goes into making the events a success. A band playing for free at The Age’s highly successful Night Noodle markets has cried foul and being asked to play a set for nothing. Fairfax says it can see where they’re coming from and is looking at how it does this stuff in the future.

Sydney-based reggae band Black Bird Hum lashed Fairfax about the event’s lack of a music budget on Facebook yesterday, having been approached last week to play a set at the markets by an external agency managing the events planning aspects for Fairfax.

“We’re flattered to be on the radar of a company with an annual ‘Total Group Revenue of $1,830 million’ (FY2016). We have, however, decided to decline the invitation to perform at the event on account of you deciding not to pay us.”

“We’re guessing that the sound tech who ran the PA on the night was paid; as were the graphic designers and marketing companies that did the event website, promo and marketing material; and the companies that supplied the lighting, tables, chairs and umbrellas; and the cleaners. And so on. We’re guessing no one else was offered the chance to work on the event in exchange for “exposure”. We’re guessing you made a decision to pay everyone who worked on your event in ‘real money’ except the musicians.

“In October alone, we will have performed 15 gigs across three states as Black Bird Hum. We will have been paid for all of these gigs, often by companies with annual total group revenues probably less than 0.1% of your company’s. These organisations know the value that music brings to their event or venue and pay accordingly …

“To everyone else who pays musicians to bring positive vibrations to their events — RESPECT.”

The band’s Nish Manjunath told Crikey the group had spoken to other bands who had played the event in the past, and they also didn’t get paid. The band didn’t originally realise it was a Fairfax event, figuring maybe it was organised by Melbourne Council, which does not have a lot of money.

After being contacted by Crikey, a Fairfax spokesman responded that the company “totally get[s] where these guys are coming from”:

“It has never been our intention to simply be on the take and not giving back. We work with the artist community in a range of ways — including paid and promotional arrangements — but clearly we need to look at how we are engaging with everyone to ensure we are showing RESPECT.”

No nastiness Greens group leads to controversy. The NSW Greens look set to plunge into another preselection controversy, after MLC Jan Barham announced her resignation last week. North Coast MP Barham said that she had been struggling with depression and migraines, and after a leave of absence had decided to step back before NSW Parliament returns in 2017. That means that just months after the heated contest to replace former MLC John Kaye, a process that a tipster says “traumatised” the NSW Greens, the party is looking at a repeat.

Barham has written an email to the Committee of Management, which was shared in an unofficial Greens Facebook group. The “no nastiness” group was set up in September by Jack Gough, a staff member to Jeremy Buckingham, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.  The email has been shared with Crikey, but Barham refused to comment on it; a representative of her office said it “pretty much speaks for itself”:

Barham has requested that the party halt the preselection process for her seat, which a tipster tells us is continuing at a fast pace, with the timetable and returning officers already announced by party secretary Ian Rose. The process is currently set to take place before the party’s AGM in November.

“Dear Committee of Management,

When I announced my intention to resign from parliament, I did so partially to give the NSW Greens plenty of time to organise an orderly preselection process to fill a casual vacancy as soon as a joint sitting can be held after both Houses of Parliament have resumed sitting on 21 February 2017.

I wanted to make sure that women in the party had adequate time to consider whether they wanted to be a candidate for preselection and organise their nomination. I also hoped the State Delegates Council (SDC) would officially rule that the preselection be a women’s only preselection and I don’t believe there should be any ambiguity about this point. I wrote to you last week underlining the need for the SDC to set an sensible timetable for the preselection.

I was extremely disappointed to see that the Committee of Management (CoM) has instead decided to initiate an extremely and unnecessarily quick preselection process outside of the NSW Greens constitution. There is no urgency for the CoM to make these decisions before the November State Delegates Council and in doing so the CoM has acted beyond its powers. In fact there are two SDCs scheduled before the casual vacancy will arise, allowing the SDC the opportunity to approve a timetable and rules for the preselection and endorse the final result.

The process outlined in the message sent to members breaches section 11.17 of the NSW Greens constitution in a number of ways:
1) The SDC must elect a returning officer and the CoM cannot simply appoint returning officers, interim or otherwise. If there is an urgent preselection then the constitution says the Secretary becomes the interim returning officer.
2) The interim returning officer “is not empowered to close nominations without the authorisation of the Delegates Council”, yet this process sets a date for the close of nominations.
3) A proposal for a timeline for the conduct of the ballot should be taken to the next SDC and this proposal should be circulated to member groups. This has obviously not been done.

There are very valid reasons why the constitution specifies that the SDC is to make these important decisions about the conduct of a preselection. I also note that the timetable set out in the email sent to members puts the nomination process right on top of the AGM/SDC meeting and three state by-elections.

I request that the CoM immediately halt the unconstitutional process it has initiated and instead bring a proposal for an orderly preselection to the next SDC.

Regards,
Jan Barham”

Macdonald Watch. We weren’t going to make this into a thing, but LNP Senator Ian Macdonald embarrassed himself further in his estimates committee chairing yesterday. Again there were his requests for witnesses and even senators to repeat themselves — at one stage he asked Penny Wong to say something to him three times — and when Greens Senator Nick McKim moved a motion repeatedly (as in, 20 or 30 times) Macdonald claimed not to have heard him.

But the senator’s befuddlement becomes ever clearer. When Wong and McKim spent a long period grilling Administrative Appeals Tribunal staff on why Liberal Party identities had been appointed by Attorney-General George Brandis to the AAT right before the election was called, a confused Macdonald apparently decided that Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson — whom Macdonald had repeatedly attacked last Friday in another committee — was on the AAT and repeatedly asked when Gleeson had been appointed by Labor. He then demanded of AAT staff when “Labor senator Ruth Walker” had been appointed to the AAT. There is no Labor senator called Ruth Walker; there was one called Ruth Webber, from WA, about a decade ago, but we can’t find any record Webber was ever appointed to the AAT. Maybe Macdonald knows something we don’t.

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Peter Fray

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