From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Get up Abetz’s nose. Fresh from “helping Labor” at the last federal election (according to Eric Abetz), word is that activist group GetUp’s ties to the Labor party continue.

Sam McLean, who was the organisation’s national director until last year, from this week joins Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s office. Crikey understands he’ll be working on social media and campaigning — his expertise at GetUp will come in handy. Shorten was, of course, one of the founding board directors of GetUp. He left when he became a politician.

McLean had several years of involvement at GetUp after joining as a volunteer in 2007. He told Fairfax when quitting last year he was going to go spend some time lying on the beach. His LinkedIn suggests he’s spent the year doing consulting work.

The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters will hold its first hearings into the last election in a couple of weeks, where it is expected GetUp’s impact on the campaign will be heavily scrutinised. A submission to the inquiry from the HS Chapman Society repeats many of the conspiracy theories about GetUp Abetz quoted in the Senate, along with a claim that there is a “potential for GetUp to engage in false enrolments onto the electoral roll”.

What’s in Store for Fairfax journos? It’s been a week since the launch of Fairfax’s high-end experiment in e-retail, “The Store” — a collection of mostly high-end homewares “curated” by Fairfax journalists and designers. While the launch had been announced to staff early in the week, on Friday Greg Hywood sent a follow-up email encouraging them to “get behind this initiative”. To sweeten the deal, they’re getting a 20% staff discount when they shop there. Meanwhile, they’ve been encouraged to join an internal workplace group to “receive ongoing updates about promotions, discounts and new products”. Which makes a nice novelty — where else do bosses encourage staff to shop on the job …

Waiting for Guthrie. The ABC’s new(ish) managing director gave the AN Smith lecture in Melbourne on Friday night, using buzzwords like “dexterity, diversity and collaboration” to outline her vision for the national broadcaster. A tipster tells us, though, “an ABC camera crew tried to cover Michelle Guthrie’s Wheeler Centre speech but was turned away”. Know more? Drop us a line.

Mike dropped. Premier Mike Baird used a picture of himself standing next to a piece of street art criticising him to draw attention to “graffitti removal day” over the weekend to try and gain some credit with the yoof of his state. Only problem is, the artwork was removed five months ago, so he’s been saving the picture for a politically convenient moment.


Spun out. This story by Sharri Markson in the Weekend Australian has certainly raised eyebrows in the PR and spinning industries with its claims there was a “crisis of confidence in Dreamworld board” in the wake of last week’s tragedy.

“Dreamworld’s specialist crisis manager, Newgate Communications, threatened to dump its embattled client in the midst of the escalating disaster this week when Ardent Leisure chairman Neil Balnaves and chief executive Deborah Thomas made a series of of decisions contrary to its advice,” the story started.

“There was an extraordinary confrontation between Newgate, a communications firm specialising in guiding companies through reputational challenges, and the directors of Dreamworld’s parent company, Ardent Leisure, on Thursday afternoon at their board meeting.

“Directors sitting around the table at The Mint in Sydney were taken aback by the forthright position of Newgate’s crisis manager, partner Miche Paterson, who told them they could find a new ­adviser if they didn’t start following advice.

“It was a brutal statement ­recognising the fact that the reputation of Newgate had itself been thrown into crisis.”

Here is a well known PR firm trying to limit the damage from being associated with Ardent and the Dreamworld disaster. Markson’s story appeared to be well-sourced but it was very pro-Newgate, leading some cynical types to wonder why. Former News Corp spinner Greg Baxteris is a Newgate partner, and his other gigs have included spinning Nine’s side in the great Beirut kidnapping adventure, plus being head spinner for Goodman Fielder and for James Hardie.

Whomever thought it up, Sharri Markson’s story certainly pushed the Newgate line. So the big question now is, is Ardent still a client of Newgate after Markson’s story, or was her story effectively a goodbye note from the PR firm?

Pull the Triggs. A petition calling for President of the Human Rights Commissions Professor Gillian Triggs to resign has gained more than 4000 signatures, but when followed to its source, it looks like the usual suspects are at work. After reports accusing Triggs of misleading parliament, the website “” popped up, with no mention of who actually started the petition.

It looks like, though, it was started last Friday on the conservative opinion website, Menzies House, which is run by Liberal campaigner Tim Andrews.

Triggs had claimed her comments to a journalist from The Saturday Paper claiming Triggs could “destroy” parliamentarians questioning her were manufactured. The publication claimed otherwise, and Triggs backtracked. In a letter published to the parliamentary committee on Friday, Triggs said she accepts the assurances from the editor of The Saturday Paper that the quotes were accurate.

Andrews has fronted an assortment of petitions, including a recent crowdfunding campaign to help former Family First Senator Bob Day pay off the money owed by Day’s building companies. As the executive director of the Australian Taxpayer’s Alliance, Andrews has been involved in both Australian and international political advocacy. He also serves as a board member for the Australian Libertarian Society and H.R. Nicholls Society.

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