From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Long live the king. Among the many oddities of the Australian outback, the Hutt River Municipality is one of Ms Tips’ favourites. The self-declared micro-nation in Western Australia has existed since 1970, although Australia doesn’t officially recognise it as a separate country. The local ABC reports Hutt River’s monarch, Prince Leonard, is abdicating the throne at the age of 91, to hand over to his youngest son, Prince Graham. The ABC reports:

“‘It certainly would be nice to be able to continue, but again, you’ve got to be able to realise that we’ve all got our own period of life,’ Prince Leonard said.

‘I’m very happy to be handing it over to Prince Graeme, because I know he’s very able and capable.’

Prince Graeme, who holds a number of titles, including minister of state and education and grand master of the order of wisdom and learning, has been working full-time at the principality for three years.”

Of course it’s not all fun and games. The Tax Office has been chasing the family for more than $2.65 million in tax owed, with a writ issued in December last year.

Gone fishin’. While the CFMEU gave most of its political donations to the Labor Party, there were a few donations made to the Australian Recreational Fishers Party, which received just three donations — all from trade unions. The CFMEU’s national, Victorian and Tasmanian branches donated $25,000 each, while the Electrical Trades Union donated $25,000. So what’s the connection? Are tradies keen fishers? The party was set up last year by Kevin Harkins — a former disendorsed Labor candidate and CFMEU official — to fight fishing trawlers in Australian waters. Preferences from the party helped Labor over the line in two lower house seats in Tasmania, but after the election Harkins said the party directed preferences in that direction based on Labor’s policies against super-trawlers.

I spy with my little eye. A tipster got a good view of former PM Tony Abbott in Sydney yesterday far away from his vanquisher Malcolm Turnbull at the Press Club:

“Where was Tony Abbott while his Prime Minister,Malcolm Turnbull,was addressing the National Press Club in Canberra? At the Buena (formerly the Beuna Vista) Hotel in Mosman.”

Julian Burnside weighs into Victorian council fight. Last year we reported that an inner-city Melbourne council looked set to thwart a councillor’s bid to lead the Municipal Association of Victoria, the peak body for local councils in the state. The MAV’s previous president, Bill McArthur, was out of the job after eight years after being dumped from his own rural council of Golden Plains last October, so Boroondara Councillor Coral Ross has been interim president for three months. She had hoped to be the first directly elected woman to fill the role of president in the MAV’s 138-year history, but her Boroondara colleagues had other plans.

Liberal-dominated Boroondara Council, which takes in much of Josh Frydenberg’s affluent seat of Kooyong in Melbourne’s leafy eastern suburbs, has pulled the rug on Coral Ross by withdrawing her commission as their delegate, sparking howls of outrage across the sector, particularly from the Australian Local Government Women’s Association.

The Boroondara councillors made their move in a confidential meeting last December and then didn’t put their names to this strange press release defending the strategy on Monday, which included the old “I have daughters” argument from new councillor Gary Thompson.

A solution to the stand-off appeared at hand when Boroondara’s neighbouring female majority Darebin Council, where the Greens now have the numbers, stepped up and appointed Ross as their MAV delegate in order to give her a chance to run.

This was on the back of legal advice from no less than Julian Burnside QC, who found it was permissible under the MAV rules.

Alas, long-serving MAV CEO Rob Spence has commissioned alternative legal advice from Minter Ellison and is telling the board that he intends to reject Darebin’s nomination of Ross and not let the board make their own decision on the validity of this move at tomorrow’s meeting.

This would be a bold intervention by a long-serving CEO who hasn’t exactly seen eye to eye with his president in years gone by. It is rumoured he would prefer to work with former MAV president and City of Port Phillip Labor councillor Dick Gross, who has announced his intention to run again.

The VEC is running the MAV election, and the electoral roll closes tomorrow. Nominations for president and regional board seats are already open and close next Friday, February 10. Tomorrow’s board meeting could get quite messy, and whatever happens, there’s a chance this one could finish up in the Victorian Supreme Court.

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

Peter Fray

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