From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Harden up. Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood should probably lend an ear to his most recently promoted executive. The new head of the Fairfax NZ operations, Sinead Boucher, was speaking on a panel at the Storyology conference yesterday about the business of journalism, and called for publishers upset about digital disruption to their advertising revenues to stop the hand-wringing. “We need to shrug off the victim mentality … and start acting like disruptors ourselves,” she said. At the Senate Select Committee on the Future of Public Interest Journalism in May, Hywood complained that the ABC was undermining commercial media companies by competing with them for clicks and Google. “ABC is creating additional pressure on commercial media by aggressively competing for the same audience that commercial media rely on by providing digital content for free undermining our ability to create a sustainable model,” he said. Hywood also had a whinge to the committee about Google’s “negligible tax” payments. Boucher was sitting next to The Australian‘s digital editor Stuart Fagg on the panel, whose News Corp CEO Robert Thomson said in March that Google and Facebook were creating a “dysfunctional and socially destructive” environment for publishers. Maybe it’s time to harden up, boys.

Three for three. Thanks to all the tipsters who confirmed that “P. Li”, the second mother in the No to marriage equality TV ad, is Dr Pansy Lai, a Sydney paediatrician who led a petition against Safe Schools last year. That brings the tally of the ”concerned mums” in the ad who are actually proven political operatives to three for three. Lai created an anti LGBT Lobby group called Australian Chinese for Families Association. It is supported by the Marriage Alliance group, funded by the Australian Christian Lobby with close ties to the Australian Liberal Party. Here’s yesterday’s Tips for the background. Clearly the No vote values Asian-Australian so much, they can’t even spell their names correctly.

Hoist on his own petard? Crikey readers would recall Senator Derryn Hinch’s column of two weeks ago, in which he admitted that the entire section 44 debacle now threatening the government was his fault:

“If that constitutional legal nerd, Perth lawyer John Cameron, hadn’t decided a month ago to go after my antecedents, hadn’t gone sniffing around in Wellington to see if I had renounced my Kiwi citizenship, the Turnbull government might not be in the “deep doodoo” it is now. The dominoes might not have fallen. The sticks might not have moved.”

Then last week he doubled down, declaring that he was not sympathetic to the plight of those unwittingly tripped up by section 44 of the constitution:

“Let’s be blunt here. If a political greenhorn like me — with the Justice Party only officially registered with the AEC three months before the 2016 election and working with a handful of volunteers — could get my shit together and papers in order, why couldn’t the big boys? Assign one staffer to check on citizenship obligations.

“Hey, I’ve been an Australian citizen for more than 35 years, but I read section 44 and knew what had to be done. And I did it. That’s why this is a sympathy-free zone.

But did he get his shit together? It transpires Hinch has an American Social Security card from his time living in New York in the 1960s and ’70s. There is now a constitutional question as to whether that entitles him “to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power”, which is verboten according to our old friend, section 44. Hinch is now having a quiet word with the Solicitor-General about his eligibility. As James Paterson, Steve Ciobo, Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull have all learnt the hard way, “sympathy-free zones” are very dangerous places to find yourself. 

WA cabinet revolt? On Monday, Gary Adshead, state political editor for The West Australian, reported  on “WA Labor’s new factional force, ‘Progressive Labor'” which, despite the name comes from the right-aligned unions the SDA, the Maritime Union, the CFMEU, the Transport Workers’ Union, and the AWU, and which “flexed its muscle at the party’s State conference at the weekend by successfully moving a motion against the McGowan Government’s plans for an outer harbour at Kwinana”. According to a tipster, this influence goes all the way to the top, who told us “at least” six MPs voted against McGowan, including a cabinet minister.

Which minister, we wonder? There are several ministers in the McGowan cabinet from right-aligned unions, including Kate Doust and Bill Johnston of the Shoppies, or unaligned public sector unions, like John Quigley of the WA Police union and Michelle Roberts of the state school teachers’ union. Know more? Let us know.

No massaging the story here. New South Wales MP Gareth Ward has made headlines in the New York Post and the New York Daily News overnight, after he said he was caught up in a “special massage scam” while staying at a hotel in the city. Ward says he called a number provided by an acquaintance to order a massage, but when two men arrived, started filming him and said they would expose him for ordering a “special massage” from minors, things went awry. The men posing as masseurs had demanded US$1000 from Ward, which he said he could only get from an ATM — on going downstairs to the lobby he told hotel staff to call 911. “The claims requesting a special massage are untrue. I requested a normal massage as people on holidays will often do,” Ward told the ABC. “I was terrified … I didn’t know whether they would mug me or not. I was worried they would bash me.”

The New York Daily News and NY Post weren’t buying that, with the Post writing:

“Crikey! A blind Australian politician ordered up a massage at his Midtown hotel room — but his quest for a good time didn’t have a happy ending, law-enforcement sources said Wednesday.”

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