From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Listen up. The Institute of Public Affairs is all about setting speech free, and the climate change denial/18C outlet has found a new way to free its own speech through a podcast. The Young IPA podcast released its first episode on Tuesday, hosted by digital communications manager James Bolt and research fellow Peter Gregor. It covered free speech (what else?), penalty rates and The Simpsons. The “here’s two mates who think their in-jokes are genius” podcast genre is already crowded, but that never stops anyone from joining the field. If Bolt’s name sounds familiar, that’s because he’s son of News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt, and the apple hasn’t fallen far from the ideological tree. Bolt and Gregor dismiss Sunday penalty rates because hungover waiters who spent all night at Revs (that’s infamous Melbourne nightclub Revolver, for those unfamiliar with the venue) wouldn’t be going to church if they weren’t working anyway, and make clear their disappointment with the government over the lack of changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Listen if you want to be overwhelmed by smugness.

Nightmare on Spring Street: Guy’s revenge. The divisions in the Victorian Liberal Party keep getting juicier. The Age revealed today that the parliamentary leader Matthew Guy and his colleagues had set up their own fundraising account, separate from the administrative arm of the party, which contains almost $250,000 in donated funds to go towards the party’s efforts at next year’s state election. This comes as the party’s factions are going to war over Peter Reith’s bid to boot party president Michael Kroger from his job. Guy and other state MPs are supporting Reith, but the account shows how deep distrust of the administrative arm is. In the lead-up to the vote for the party’s various administrative bodies, Ms Tips understands that Kroger has dropped Georgina Downer from his ticket to continue her role on the administrative committee. It’s unclear why she’s no longer in favour with Kroger, who seems to be on the way out. 

Local councils snatching your metadata again. The mandatory data retention regime had one upside in that it was supposed to reduce the number of government agencies, departments and local councils that were able to access your metadata from over 80 down to just over 20.

Those culled from the list weren’t too happy about it at the time, but it seems like they’ve just found another way to circumvent this new regime. Tech site ZDNet first reported yesterday that Communications Alliance, the peak lobby group for Australian telcos, told the Attorney-General’s Department that local councils and the RSPCA were back to their old habits now instead using section 280 of the Telecommunications Act to force Telstra, Optus and other telcos to hand over metadata, bypassing the data retention rules:

“Several agencies that were excluded from the list of Enforcement Agencies with the introduction of the DR regime are now simply relying on powers in their own statutes to request data. Such agencies include local councils (who request access to data to manage minor traffic offences, unlawful removal of trees, illegal rubbish dumping and billposters), the RSPCA, the Environment Protection Authority and state coroners, to name a few. The use of these other powers to access communications data appears to circumvent protections in the Act and TIA Act.”

Sneaky, and a clear contravention of the intention of the legislation. The response came to AGD’s review of whether metadata should be accessible for civil suits, like when chasing down people pirating online. Interestingly, at a casual glance of the submissions online, there are no industry bodies actually backing the proposal, raising the question: why is the government even considering it?  

Ex-Lib at war with Libs. Independent member for the key seat of Hillarys, Rob Johnson, has thrown such persistent and damning shade at the WA Liberal Party, from which he resigned last year, that “escalation” has started to feel like the wrong word — it’s become business as usual.  After years of feuding with Premier Colin Barnett, most publicly about his belief the WA Liberal Party is being taken over by evangelical Christians, he announced his resignation from the party in April 2016 by noting his lack of respect for his party leader and his “serious concerns in relation to this Government’s commitment to honesty, integrity, openness and accountability”. In October of last year, he was thrown out of Parliament for calling Barnett a “disgraceful turd” over his opposition to a bill removing the six-year limit on civil action for child abuse survivors.

But in the dying days of the state election, he keeps finding things to condemn about his former employer. On Tuesday evening he took to Facebook to fire off a litany of accusations — many of which was already on the public record. The accusation that the Libs “hacked” Google received coverage on the ABC last year, with state Liberal Party director Andrew Cox admitting at the time that someone had changed the details when Johnson quit, helpfully pointing out that Johnson could simply change them back. But new and interesting is the assertion that the WA Liberals had robo-called Hillarys voters and identified Johnson as a Labor candidate rather than an independent. Johnson told Crikey constituents of his had called him to check after receiving the call, set up as a poll. We can’t verify if that’s true, or just a misunderstanding on the part of the callers, and Johnson doesn’t have a recording.

Have any of our readers in Hillarys received this call? Drop us a line.

Peter Kastambanis, the Liberal candidate running against Johnson in Hillarys, was contacted for comment, but did not get back to us before deadline.

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

Peter Fray

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