From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Tele beats up on Triggs, again. The Daily Telegraph‘s Sharri Markson has gone hard on Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs for the gall of speaking at the seventh annual Hobart Oration at the end of this month, an event put on by the Bob Brown Foundation.

The $50-per-head event is just covers costs for the event, but because Bob Brown is the former leader of the Greens, Markson has Immigration Minister Peter Dutton in the article calling for Triggs to cancel her speech or step aside from her job. The Australian has followed up this morning with a quote from Liberal Senator Eric Abetz along the same lines. You didn’t see this sort of fuss from Liberal politicians when Tim Wilson, now the Liberal member for Goldstein, spoke at political party events as Human Rights Commissioner. In 2015, Wilson was a speaker at a Liberal Victoria party branch event. He subsequently revealed he had spoken at Liberal Party events, Greens events, Liberal Democratic Party events, and Country Liberal Party events on the same proviso as Triggs — that it was not a fundraising event. Where was the same outrage and calls to stand aside from Dutton?

A spokesperson for the Bob Brown Foundation told Crikey that the orations were not fundraisers, and historically they have run at a loss. He said it was run by the foundation, not the Greens, because the Greens gave up running the event years ago because it was running a loss. It is purely a community event and has previously heard from eminent speakers including David Suzuki, Professor Brian Schmidt, and founder Bill McKibben. In a statement, Brown said The Daily Telegraph had not bothered to contact him about the event before today’s hit piece.

“No one has ever complained before The Daily Telegraph, which has not been in contact with me. Perhaps it should concentrate on it what it does so well, censoring public comment in Sydney,” Brown said.

Turnbull spotted by his mates. After the PM’s Snowy Hydro announcement, Malcolm Turnbull quickly hopped on a plane to Melbourne to appear on Ten’s The Project to sell the feasibility study, meaning he took the train from Melbourne down to South Yarra, as he often does in these situations. In the Facebook group dedicated to pointing out where public transport ticket inspectors are located in Melbourne’s public transport network (sardonically referred to as “our mates” in the group), the below photo was captured of the PM stuck in what appears to be a rather crowded train headed in that direction.

Snowy Hydro to get the poll numbers flowing. Malcolm Turnbull is certainly going to great lengths to hype his unfunded, undetailed Snowy Hydro feasibility study, conducting a round of media interviews to spruik it. We note, by way of comparison, that the high-speed rail proposal — of which Crikey‘s own Bernard Keane is such a huge fan — is now into its ninth year of feasibility studies, scoping studies and corridor selection (that’s the current iteration — there have been previous iterations since the 1990s). But while we may be sceptical that a single watt will ever be generated from Turnbull’s media release, what we’re sure about is the timing: there’ll be a Newspoll out early next week as Parliament resumes, and another poll like the last one will immediately set leadership hares running. So the Turnbull brains trust is clearly hoping a bit of green vision will boost the government’s numbers and Turnbull’s personal ratings. Still, who knows — maybe Tony Abbott will repeat his Newspoll-wrecking performance of two weeks ago with another helpful intervention. Time enough if good enough …

While McManus is condemned, actual illegal strikes ignored. New Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus’ Wednesday interview on 7.30 — in which she flatly stated she didn’t see a problem with breaking unjust laws — continues to be a boon for tut-tutting columnists. In today’s Age, Mark Kenny described the comments as “out-dated,” “politically inept” and an “enormous stick” with which the Coalition can beat Bill Shorten. Meanwhile, the Herald Sun said the comments were “advocating lawlessness and protecting some of the biggest thugs and criminals ever to carry union cards” and illustrated that workers and the union movement deserved better than McManus. And The Australian –– having dedicated its front page to McManus and her thoughts on body hair, among other things — saw fit to publish an editorial, a Cut & Paste column and a David Crowe opinion piece, as well as four letters to the editor about her comments, three of them condemning them.

While all these three publications have shown a clear commitment to the rule of law as it applies to industrial relations, it seems strange that none have mentioned what appears to be an actual illegal strike currently happening in Melbourne.

According to a report on the ABC, the staff at Nant’s Melbourne whisky bar have walked off the job, claiming they have not been paid thousands of dollars in wages, superannuation and other entitlements. According to the article, a letter signed by most of the workforce was presented to management last week that said:

“We cannot continue to strive to achieve the future we see for this bar if we perceive no support from management, and feel our basic entitlements, such as regular pay … are not being honoured.”

As anyone condemning McManus surely knows, striking just because you haven’t been paid is illegal. Surely this is just the kind of “reckless assault on [the] rule of law” that the Oz warned us of? And yet not a word about it. Perhaps a quiet strike by a small workforce over an employer’s failure to provide basic entitlements doesn’t quite fit the anarchist union thug narrative, even if it’s illegal?

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Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey