Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

No-spin zone? The Australian Border Force Podcast is an extremely thrifty venture by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, thanks to the use of freeware and royalty-free music, according to a guide to the podcast released in response to a freedom of information request on Right to Know.

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The department decides who appears on the podcast and the circumstances in which they appear, with strict rules around keeping the conversation casual. The rules include:

  • Podcast interviews must not be “spin”. They have to be balanced, newsy and interesting;
  • ABF podcasts should be about border security/law enforcement, and to maintain credibility in the format, it is essential to stick to talking about it in an accessible manner; and
  • The stories should not just be about the organisation’s successes, but also about its challenges and struggles.

The agency is also conscious not to put out a podcast that is “worthy but dull” and to avoid include long, repetitive answers. That means keeping the microphone away from senior executives. The guide states:

“No offence to the SES, but a 40 minute speech from a lectern can be very dull in a podcast format.”

Management speak like “synergies” is banned, and the podcasts shouldn’t be propaganda:

“It is essential that the podcasts aren’t propaganda tools or a personal vehicle or management vehicle. Podcasts aren’t a way to ‘spin’ our message, they are a window into the ABF, and should be treated with respect.”

We look forward then, to the in-depth reporting of the department’s handling of asylum seekers. Surely that’s topic for the third episode of the podcast? So far it’s steered clear. The first episode had an interview with agency head Roman Quaedvlieg, who discussed the agency’s maritime work and the Detector Dogs program. The second episode focussed on the agency’s airport work, as well as its staff training at the Australian Border Force college.

The department estimates each episode costs $12 to make; it seems the department is skimping on proper editing tools, music and recording equipment.

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Just how many people are actually tuning into these podcasts? In a response to a question on notice, the department said it had no way of knowing how popular the podcast had been, but noted it was the top of the government category in the iTunes podcast app.

Fairfax v Darren Davidson. The Australian really got up Fairfax’s nose today with a story that said ads for Fairfax-owned real estate portal Domain were appearing on porn sites. This, the Oz said, “shows how Domain is using greasy tactics to lure internet users from sites advocating ­por­no­graphy and other illicit actions”. Fairfax takes a lot of this stuff in stride, but it had had enough this morning. It said, in a press release:

The Australian’s Darren Davidson had a story published this morning suggesting Domain has advertising on porn websites. We don’t …

“We told The Australian it was wrong. We note they printed our quote. But still they had no hesitation in running the yarn.

“News Limited has never had any shame about using their media platforms for attacks on competitors. They dress up their bile as news and bore the rest of the industry with their seemingly endless appetite for gutter dwelling.”

The Australian‘s parent company is an owner of REA, the main competitor to Fairfax’s Domain.

Pesticides pork. The plan to move the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) from Canberra to Armidale in Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce’s electorate is set to cost taxpayers $25 million. And just how much of that cost is inducements to public servants in the agency to up stumps from the nation’s capital to the regional NSW town? A tipster tells us one of the incentives for staff who do make the move is 12 return flights between Armidale and Canberra — but only for the first 12 months after the move. The Canberra Times reported last week that just 10 out of 103 scientists were expected to stay with the agency when it moves, and just 100 out of the 200 people in the workforce would move. The plan to move the agency has been widely panned, with benefits difficult to find (or justify).

Sticks and stones. Former prime minister Tony Abbott has revealed Fifty Shades Darker won’t be on his summer reading list, after telling ABC’s Sunday Afternoons he regrets reading the E.L. James novel Fifty Shades of Grey. Abbott listed books that he has enjoyed recently — Kevin Donnelly’s The Culture of Freedom, Daniel Silva thrillers and Anne Henderson’s Menzies at War (he’s halfway through) — but he didn’t have any praise for Fifty Shades. “I think, because it was being much talked about at the time, I might have picked it up an airport bookshop and thought I should at least become familiar with this talking point, but I have to say it was few hours that could easily have been better spent.” Ms Tips is impressed that Abbott managed to see the book right through until the end — we found that we couldn’t stomach any more after a few chapters. But Abbott has shown that he will stick with things well after it is wise to do so.

Andrews allies mount attack. The factional wheeling and dealing continues in the Victorian Liberal Party, with tonight’s annual general meeting of the Menzies branch set to be the scene of a new conservative versus moderate stoush. The branch, which is home to former defence minister and Tony Abbott ally Kevin Andrews, has had a surge of new members in recent months from local evangelical churches. Allegations of branch stacking have been plaguing the Liberal Party in Victoria, and Fairfax reported last week that Andrews had been “attending micro party meetings and holding church-based community forums in a broad bid to attract more members from the religious right”. Andrews has refused to address the claims.

Andrew Asten, chief of staff to Human Services Minister Alan Tudge and ally to Andrews, is set to challenge Keith Wolahan for vice chair of the branch, as part of a series of moves that are emblematic of the push and pull for power between conservatives and moderates in the party. Asten is backed by branch president Sandra Mercer Moore, and aligned with young up and comer Marcus Bastiaan and party president Michael Kroger, but he isn’t the only one challenging for position’s on the branch’s executive. Wolahan’s wife, Sarah Weinberg, is secretary of the Menzies state electoral council, but she’s being challenged by 20-year-old Asten ally Cameron Manassa. Wolahan, barrister and former soldier is well-liked locally. As part of the rout, Paul Sukkar (brother to MP for nearby Deakin Michael Sukkar) is challenging Mike Poutney for the position of membership officer.

And who will be returning officer to oversee this bloodletting? Party president Michael Kroger will be counting the votes. Don’t let anyone ever tell you the Liberals don’t have factions.

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

Peter Fray

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