From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Agile foreign affairs. DFAT staff have been using WhatsApp for communications but have been told to not conduct any secret government business on the app. In response to a question on notice from estimates, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was “aware that staff use WhatsApp” to communicate with each other but stated that there were “a range of policies and guidelines on the handling of official and classified information”.

DFAT — somehow — is confident that no sensitive trade information has been communicated by WhatsApp. When asked whether any trade information had been compromised by “online hackers” the department just said “for national security reasons, it is the long-standing practice of successive Australian Governments not to comment on operational security matters”.

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It’s not like DFAT staff are turning to WhatsApp because they don’t have any options. The department states that it has a secure global telecommunications system to use.

George’s jobs for the boys. Attorney-General George Brandis has continued a pattern of appointing his Liberal mates to cushy government positions, with new appoints to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Russell Matheson and Andrew Nikolic, both of whom lost their seats in this year’s election, were among 17 new appointments to the tribunal. But it wasn’t all ex-Liberal MPs; former Labor speaker Anna Burke and former Labor senator Linda Kirk also got gigs. This is not a new thing for Brandis — right before the caretaker period before the election, he made more than 100 appointments, including 76 to the AAT, three human rights commissioners, four Federal Court roles and many others. There was no shortage of Liberal members or ex-candidates then, either.

Roxy fights the system. In response to yesterday’s education on how to get on in the public relations world according to Roxy Jacenko, a Sydney tipster gives us the view on her work from inside the PR industry: “Roxy tried to sell her business — but couldn’t — her issue is that Sweaty Betty suffers from ‘principal dependency’ — if she leaves, the business falls apart. There may not be any contracts behind the ‘clients’ she has … [it’s] difficult to value a business based on handshakes.” We understand that Jacenko uses her lawyers judiciously when trying to quash gossip about herself and her business, but as yesterday’s story shows, Jacenko uses the rumour mill when it suits her. She once called in a tip to a newspaper on her own husband to find out if he was being unfaithful to her.

A most productive Christmas. “We wish you an undisrupted Christmas” doesn’t have the same ring to it as a “merry Christmas” but that didn’t stop the Productivity Commission. The commission’s Christmas message this year covers what happens when even the most magical of industries faces disruption — “Santa and Mrs Claus are being disrupted this Christmas,” it reads.

“Rudolf and the reindeers are now a ride sharing service. Delivery drones and 3D printing are fast and reliable. Elves must be more agile to fast track orders.”

But have no fear, the message continues “in the face of wishlist datasets, decent data can save Christmas”.

Only certain people would wish for good data for Christmas, and we’re sure most of them work at the Productivity Commission. We wonder how Peter Dutton feels about wishing people an undisrupted Christmas? At least its mentions the C word. No mention of how Jesus disrupted anything, though.


Too many CDs, Mozart. Recently headlines were dominated with news about the highest-selling CD of 2016. Billboard, an American industry music publication, ran with the lead, “The biggest-selling CD act of 2016 doesn’t sing. He doesn’t play guitar and he doesn’t tour. In fact, no one alive has ever seen him.”

This person was none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In October, Universal Music Group, who now distribute his music, released Mozart 225: The New Complete Edition. By December it was declared he had sold 1.25 million units and was therefore the best-selling CD release of the year.

That’s sounds like a lot — and it is — 1.25 million units in under three months is unprecedented even for CDs and someone of Mozart’s fame. To give you an idea of how big this is, in the middle of the year Billboard released a report stating only three albums this year had sold over a million units, and this was done through streaming.

But the devil is in the detail, as to how Mozart (or Universal) achieved this — every box set has 200 CDs in it. And there were only 6250 box sets available. Were 1.25 million units actually sold? Not really. What Billboard did was count each individual CD sold as part of the boxset, instead of each boxset, to make it appear each CD counted as an individual sale. So did Mozart make an unprecedented comeback in 2016? Not so much.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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