From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Are you being served? The Australian Open kicks off today, launching two weeks of some of the best tennis in the world, but also some of the best people-watching, which is where our talents lie at Crikey. As has been noted elsewhere, the event is a huge part of Channel Seven’s promotional schedule (and we’re not just talking about ads for My Kitchen Rules). It’s where Seven bosses wine and dine key advertisers and business partners — and CEO Tim Worner is usually in the thick of it. Will it be a bit awkward this year, just weeks out from news of his affair with Amber Harrison and allegations of more affairs and drug use? And which pollies will brave being photographed courtside after the recent expenses scandals engulfing government ministers? We already know Trade Minister Steve Ciobo thinks it’s perfectly fine to charge the taxpayer for attendance at sporting events, but who will actually turn up?

Dastyari puts on his blue suede shoes. Labor Senator Sam Dastyari has been spending a lot of time doing the Jailhouse Rock as penance for the donations scandal that cost him his job in the shadow cabinet, but now he’s possibly found a new calling in life as an Elvis impersonator tribute artist. Dastyari visited the NSW town of Parkes on the weekend, where the 25th annual Elvis festival descends on the town in January each year to pay homage to the King of Rock’n’Roll. Dastyari first interviewed Elvis fans about his prospects of impersonating Elvis and was told those dressed in jumpsuits with sunglasses and wigs were called “tribute artists”, not impersonators. By the end of the video we see Dastyari himself in full Elvis mode, dressed as “halal Elvis”. We had suspicious minds, but he does a decent job.

 

Thank you, thank you very much.

Trump enters the Twilight Zone. A Scottish newspaper has sent up US President-elect Donald Trump in its television guide, with a witty description of the ceremony for Trump’s inauguration, to be televised on Friday (Saturday in Australia). The Scottish Sunday Herald writes:

“President Trump: The Inauguration (4pm, BBC One/STV)

After a long absence, The Twilight Zone returns with one of its most ambitious, expensive and controversial productions in broadcast history. Sci-fi writers have dabbled often with alternative history stories — among the most common is the “What If The Nazis Had Won The Second World War” setting — but this huge interactive virtual reality project, which will unfold on TV, in the press, and on Twitter over the next four years, sets out to build an ongoing alternative present. The story begins in a nightmarish version of 2017 in which huge sections of the US electorate have somehow been duped into voting to make Donald Trump president. It sounds far-fetched, and it is, but as it goes on it becomes more and more chillingly plausible. Today’s feature-length opener concentrates on the gaudy inauguration of President Trump, and the stirrings of protest and despair surrounding the ceremony, while pundits speculate gravely on what lies ahead. It’s a flawed piece, but a disturbing glimpse of the horrors we could stumble into, if we’re not careful.”

The most coveted invitation. Speaking of the inauguration, guess who has been invited? One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson tweeted today she had “been gifted tickets” to the ceremony. “What an honour!” she wrote in a tweet tagging President-elect Trump. She’d have to get on a plane quick smart to be in Washington DC in time, but she says she’ll have to respectfully decline due to work commitments here. 

 

Hanson isn’t the only notable Australian to be invited to see in the Trump era. Australian Christian Lobby director Lyle Shelton will be in Washington to attend an inauguration ball (but not the actual ceremony). Have you heard of any other Australians who will be there to officially usher Trump into the White House? Drop us a line here, or you can stay anonymous.

F-35 fails again. New year, same headlines when it comes to the beleaguered F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. This time it’s a Pentagon report listing 276 “deficiencies in combat performance”, which is kind of exactly what its meant to be able to do. The report, by the Pentagon’s outgoing director of combat testing Michael Gilmore, is damning, and it is estimated it will cost half a billion dollars to extend the August 2017 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation deadline. Australia has committed to purchasing 72 of the planes, but Donald Trump is making it look less and less likely the US wants them at all.

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

Peter Fray

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