From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Mum’s the word. The first TV ad from the Australian Christian Lobby prosecuting the No case in the marriage equality survey came out last night, and it was … mostly about Safe Schools?

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Misdirection aside, we’ve had a quick look into some of the “concerned mums” fronting the ad. The first is a familiar face to Victorians. Cella White made a video after she dramatically removed her son from Frankston High last year because a teacher allegedly told him he could wear a dress to school next year if he wanted. News then emerged this mum was backed by Lyle Shelton’s Australian Christian Lobby. White is back in the new ad with the same story.

The last mum in the ACL ad is Heidi McIvor, who has quite the resume. Heidi is a former staffer for Family First senator Steve Fielding, and previously worked for two Liberal politicians and a National. But sure, an average mother. If her LinkedIn profile is anything to go by, McIvor worked for Stephen “creationism” Fielding for three years, and describes him as “one of the most influential politicians in the Australian Parliament”. A gentle reminder here that Stephen Fielding compared same-sex marriage to incest in 2007. 

“A bloke cannot marry his brother; it is not right. A woman cannot marry their sister; it is not right. A bloke cannot marry a bloke because it is not right, and a female cannot marry a female because it is not right. I don’t support this.”

Ivor also appears to be long time pro-life, anti-feminist activist who is Facebook friends with ACL chief Lyle Shelton himself. But again, a regular Aussie mum with no agenda.

Ms Tips welcomes any information on P.Li, the second mum in the ACL video. And you can stay anonymous.

Infrastructure chief hitting the road. Canberra eyebrows were raised on the weekend when Infrastructure secretary Mike Mrdak was reported to have delivered the bureaucratic equivalent of both barrels to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Prime Minister’s Office. Mrdak’s candour was of the kind usually employed by outgoing Secretaries who no longer have to worry about what governments think of them — and it seems that’s exactly the case with Mrdak. Mrdak was reappointed — with lavish praise — for three years by Tony Abbott in June 2014. But in late June, the Infrastructure Department tells us, Malcolm Turnbull only reappointed Mrdak for six months, with his contract expiring on December 31. Mrdak is one of Canberra’s most respected public servants, has led Infrastructure since 2009 and has worked directly for and with Transport ministers dating back to Laurie Brereton, as well having a stint in Prime Minister and Cabinet.

In a public service not notably overburdened with leadership talent and increasingly seen as incompetent, you’d have to wonder why any government didn’t fall over itself to retain Mrdak’s services. One important example — when the ANAO reviewed the Abbott government’s dreadful handling of funding for the East-West Link in Melbourne, the auditors unusually praised Infrastructure for its efforts to advise the government against advancing payments to the Victorian government, making it clear responsibility for the debacle belonged to Abbott, not the public servants. Perhaps the idea that governments should handle billions of dollars in infrastructure investment with care and due diligence isn’t popular in our new era of agility and innovation.

Cun’t touch this. A man found guilty of offensive behaviour for apparently calling a former prime minister a “cun’t” has been saved — at least in part — by an apostrophe. Danny Lim was found guilty by a magistrate for wearing a sign on a busy Sydney street that included a reference to then-PM Tony Abbott, saying “Tony you can’t” and “Tricky lying Tony you can’t”, with the ‘A’ in “can’t” inverted so it looked like a “u”. In a District Court appeal, Judge Andrew Scotting said that he couldn’t be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the “reasonable person” would read the sign as a reference to “cunt”, in part because of the apostrophe.

“There was nothing that could have been considered to be offensive by the appellant wearing a sandwich board containing a political comment, in the absence of the impugned word, for example if the appellant had used the word ‘can’t’ instead.”

Scotting also said “cunt” was less offensive in Australia than in other English-speaking countries:

“The prevalence of the impugned word in Australian language is evidence that it is considered less offensive in Australia than other English speaking countries, such as the United States. However, that also appears to be changing as is evidenced from the increase in American entertainment content featuring the impugned word.”

The Bernardi party parties on. Who will be the next right-wing minor party to announce it has merged with Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives? A caller to 3AW this morning says another party will announce that it has been subsumed by The Cory Bernardi Experience, but we’re yet to find out which one. As we have already reported, Family First, the Victorian branch of Australian Christians and Rachel Carling-Jenkins, upper house MP for the Democratic Labour Party in Victoria, have also jumped ship. The right-wing vote looked like it could be too fractured to make room for Bernardi, but he has seen that threat through so far.

Screw rural and regional Victoria. The Herald Sun could be taking after stablemate The Daily Telegraph in more ways than one, Crikey hears. Word out of a focus group for the paper in Melbourne is that its tagline could be changing from “We’re for Victoria” to “We’re for Melbourne,” bringing it in line with the Tele‘s “We’re for Sydney” line. The Tele also launched its website redesign today, and we hear the Hun will be the next cab off the rank. 


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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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