From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Guess who’s back? As Sky News spruiked its 2017 line-up, including returning shows, one name was curiously absent. “Has Sky completely dropped [Chris] Kenny from the 2017 slate?”, a Crikey tipster asked, referring to rumours not all were thrilled with Kenny’s on-air performances.

Well, we asked, and he’s still going to be gracing our screens.

“Chris Kenny will be part of the Sky News line-up in 2017,” a spokesperson said. “His involvement will be outlined as part of the further programming announcements taking place in January.”

That doesn’t say whether his Sunday night show will return, or whether he’ll be one of Sky News’ regular rotating panelists. Still, now that Sky News is entirely News Corp owned we suppose it would have been odd — and certainly worth remarking on — if the network had dropped him entirely.

Another fun thing in Sky News’ announcement from Monday are the exact specifics of Caroline Marcus’ new role. The ex-A Current Affair reporter and News Corp columnist is joining the network as an anchor and “political reporter for the people”. Which might leave you wondering who all the other political reporters are reporting for. Sky News CEO Angelos Frangopoulos helpfully clarified that “her job will be to cover politics from anywhere but Parliament House in Canberra”.

Free Eddie. Eddie Obeid is getting used to his new cell, but he still has some supporters.

A petition addresssed to Justice Robert Beech-Jones, who sentenced Obeid to five years in prison last week, had amassed 244 signatures as Crikey neared deadline.

“Eddie has changed the course of many peoples lives including my own and the majority of people will think i am bias however i always believe there are two sides to the story,” it reads. The biggest problem, it continues, is “the media”.

“They showcase the bad extremely well — but what about the good? This media witch hunt has been going on for far too long and the personal vendetta that Kate McClymont has against Eddie has fuelled an unnecessary fire.

“The imprisonment of Eddie Obeid is a disgrace, it’s a disgrace to the NSW justice system and it’s a disgrace to the Lebanese community. A successful Lebanese politician was just to much for some and i’m calling discrimination.”

The petition goes on to list a number of scandals involving politicians where no one has been sent to jail, including Barry O’Farrell’s “wine debacle”. “Could it be that Barry was born in Australia and not Lebanon? Had he been Lebanese, Greek, Syrian or Italian, could that $3,000 bottle of wine landed him in Jail?” Of course, O’Farrell isn’t in jail because he didn’t do anything criminal in accepting a bottle of wine, though perhaps the unnamed petition creator would just see that as semantic.

Attacking the media is a common theme in responses from those signing, along with alleged racism against him and claims he should be with his family.

Brandis’ data retention Christmas gift: it’s just the wrapping. Just five days out from Christmas, the Attorney-General’s Department has dropped off its present. Or rather, not the present, just the wrapping: metadata for everyone. One of the big concerns about mandatory data retention was that the data collected for the purposes of law enforcement could, in fact, be obtained during civil court proceedings, like say trying to catch people pirating TV shows and movies. The government agreed to amend it so data retained under the law could not be accessed in civil litigation, but certain exclusions to this ban could be made via government regulation. The government has now launched a review into this with a tight deadline of January 13 asking people what data and in which circumstances the data should be available in civil proceedings. It will be interesting to see if any film studios lobby for the data to be made available to them to chase down pirates.

Incidentally, Telstra has been quick off the mark to implement a block on The Pirate Bay — one of the websites it was ordered to block last week by the Federal Court. The block appears to only be on Telstra mobile at this stage; iiNet/TPG has yet to implement the block, but they have 15 business days from the ruling. Also, the block is easy to bypass with a VPN.

BuzzFeed journalist Alice Workman also tweeted that the site isn’t blocked on the free Parliament wi-fi. Which is curious, considering legitimate websites such as gaming site Kotaku have been blocked in the past.


Labor Herald goes quiet. Remember the Labor Herald? Around this time last year, we reported that Labor’s own Crikey hadn’t quite met its own lofty ambitions, losing its founding editor and getting only slight support from Labor parliamentarians mere months after creation. While the Labor Herald could and was intended to work as a place for MPs to place their op-eds, more mainstream media sources are also after the same content, and often able to guarantee a wider readership of it.

The Labor Herald was even quieter in 2016 — it barely came up when we talked to Labor operatives about their digital campaigning during the election. Now it appears the Herald has gone on “hiatus”. The ABC’s Frank Keany noticed and tweeted about it this morning, and the Herald’s own Twitter account suggests it’s been offline since December 3 (how’s that for well-earned breaks). None of the articles are viewable — all previous links redirect to the page saying its offline. It’s supposedly not permanent — the page says it’s just a “short break so that we can rest up, recharge, and get ready for 2017”.

But no one would be very surprised if it didn’t come back in 2017 at all. After all, the Labor Herald was the passion project of former Labor national secretary George Wright. He jumped to BHP in late August.

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

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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