From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

MPs offered new phone numbers after parliament stuff-up. Fairfax broke the news yesterday that the Department of Parliamentary Services had accidentally uploaded a whole bunch of mobile numbers for MPs and senators to the government website devoted to publishing the amount taxpayers are paying for each elected member of parliament and former prime ministers for their phones. Usually the phone numbers are removed entirely, but for some reason the company doing the work, which had been outsourced, simply changed the font colour to white to make it appear blank, until you highlight the text.

The data was apparently up on the site for months until pointed out by Fairfax. In an email sent by Department of Parliamentary Services Chief Information Officer Ian McKenzie to members and senators and seen by Crikey, McKenzie has offered to give MPs and senators new numbers if they are worried about their privacy being breached. McKenzie said that the reports with the phone numbers in it were caches by Google, and still may be accessible even though they have been removed from the APH website. DPS is working with Google to get the cached versions removed.

McKenzie said it would soon update politicians with details of what had been disclosed and how to “block nuisance caller numbers”.

Incidentally, under legislation currently before the Senate — which Crikey has covered before — the mere act of someone at Fairfax highlighting the text to “re-identify” the data from the de-identified forms could be a breach of the legislation.

The definition of re-identification is so vague that even such a simple trick could constitute a breach. Worse still, because the law is retrospective, if it passes in its current form, in theory, the government could prosecute Fairfax for the gall of pointing out their stuff-up, even though Fairfax didn’t publish any of the re-identified numbers. The legislation is due to be debated in the Senate later this week, and Crikey predicts there will be some amendments in light of this incident.

Reported pick for ABC chair has Turnbull ties.Jobs for the boys” is what then-shadow comms minister Jason Clare said when former Ozemail exec and Netcomm chairman Justin Milne was appointed to the NBN board at the end of 2013, and now it looks like Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull found another job for Milne, with AFR‘s Joe Aston reporting Milne has been tapped to be the new ABC chairman. Turnbull is set to announce the appointment later this week. Milne’s appointment to NBN back in 2013 was mildly controversial in that it directly contradicted what Turnbull had said before the election. When Ms Tips heard in 2013 that Milne was likely to be the new NBN CEO, Turnbull was on the phone quicksmart to say “no commitments have been made to anyone”. Milne ultimately was given a board job rather than the CEO job, but if Aston’s reporting is correct, it looks like Turnbull found a better job for Milne.

Ley’s food fair. Former Health Minister Sussan Ley may be out of the ministry after her travel expenses scandal over the summer break, but unlike some of the other high profile demotions, she doesn’t appear to be sniping and undermining, but advocating for her electorate. Tomorrow she will hold a Farrer Food Fair in Parliament House to show off all the agricultural goods produced in her electorate. MPs, staffers and media will be able to “wrestle with rissoles, sample Sunrice sushi, and pull some proper pork”.

Freedom to intimidate. Matters of Public Importance are debated every day the Senate sits at around 4pm and the topic is chosen by whichever senator wins the draw on that day. Yesterday, One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts had heads scratching when he said his topic would be the “prosecution” of Christians in south-east Queensland. Roberts later confirmed his speech was regarding the proselytising activities of a group of preachers in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast called Operation 513. As Roberts describes them:

Street preachers, from what I have seen, assemble in spots like Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall — maybe five to 10 preachers. Sometimes they are Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons; at other times they are a range of other denominations. They set up a little table, place the holy Scripture on it and talk to people who come by. Sometimes they may give a little talk, using a microphone. They talk about Jesus, just as in the same way we use the words of Jesus when we open with prayer in this chamber every day.

“On occasions, they may provide literature about the healing, forgiveness and love of Christianity, and on how to obtain help if you are in need of support.”

Those in the area know this group as serial pests who harass passers-by. As Greens senator Nick McKim said yesterday of one of the men, George Youssef:

“They said he was vilifying gay people. He was causing anxiety. He was disrupting the trade of businesses. This was on 4 December last year. Police have also said that he told those who were intoxicated and celebrating the second week of schoolies that they would ‘go to hell for being drunk, for being Muslim, for being Buddhist and for having sex outside wedlock’. This is a guy who was standing there abusing schoolies and suggesting that they would go to hell for fornicating outside wedlock”

Indeed, one of the men named by Roberts in parliament yesterday as being a prosecuted Christian, Ryan Hemelaar, has a history of clashing with gay rights campaigners. He can be seen in images in a Fairfax article from 2011 wearing an Operation 513 T-shirt while clashing with marriage equality advocates in Brisbane. On the Operation 513 website, Hemelaar reports he has told people on the street supporting same-sex marriage that gay people should just refrain from acting on their sexuality.

“One of the preachers is Ryan Hemelaar, who is a most unassuming gentleman — polite, amenable and kind. He has been fined by Brisbane City Council for such things as handing out written material, using an amplifier and placing an A-frame sign with a bible verse on it,” Roberts said yesterday.

One Nation has its team back. Rod Culleton’s brother-in-law Peter Georgiou is officially now a Senator for Western Australia, replacing Culleton. Georgiou is still getting over the measles, so he has yet to set foot in the Senate. Until he is back, there is a pair on his votes (whereby someone voting on the opposite side to what Georgiou would vote sits out to cancel out his absence). This means the Senate is just one short of its 76 senators, as we await the High Court’s decision on what will happen to former Family First Senator Bob Day’s spot.

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Peter Fray

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