tips and rumours Chris Bowen Jason Clare Penny Wong
(Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

Labor in need of geography lessons, Burston and Hanson continue their feud, and Advance Australia’s social media promotions are off to a great start. 

From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours…

Labor’s Indoamnesia. Look, you know how it is, you want to point out to voters that you’re across the details and ahead of the game when it comes to Australia’s trade policy. But you’re also in a hurry.

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This morning Labor put out a press release (attributed to no less than three of their MPs: Penny Wong, Jason Clare and Chris Bowen) welcoming the news that the government was finally going to follow their lead and implement the recommendations of Peter Varghese’s report into “increasing trade between Australia and Indonesia” after the government had “sat on the report for seven months”. 

“It’s about time”, they huffed. The only issue? Varghese’s report was about increasing trade between Australia and India, not Indonesia.

Advance Australia failure. On Monday, commenting on news that the crowded field of right-wing GetUp rivals had yet another member, Bernard Keane noted that new contender Advance Australia was already the name of several political movements in Australia. He suggested that “maybe they can just merge and save themselves the cost of a new website”.

Prominent member of the “new” AA, Sam Kennard, appears to have briefly taken that advice to heart.

Soon after he tweeted that “Aussies are smarter than the elites give them credit for”, he encouraged his followers to follow the account @advanceaushome. Except, as it turns out, that’s not the Advance Australia Twitter account, but what appears to be a bone-dry parody account (sample tweet: “We’ll always stick up for the free market. It’s continued to deliver since 2008.”)

Kennard quickly clarified this, and then, perhaps worrying the whole thing might look a touch ramshackle and amateurish, deleted the original tweet. He did however fail to delete the quote tweet that followed. 

Burston for a fight. Since he was ditched from One Nation’s senate team (and stepped over to Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party) Brian Burston has used his Facebook page for two things. The first is posting the odd Clive Palmer video (including ads for Palmer’s Titanic 2) and the occasional reflection on the sacrifice of our troops. The second is for slating his former boss Pauline Hanson. And Hanson gave him a little gold this week, shooting a pro-coal video in front of what she said was Liddell Power Station.

Except, as Burston says, that’s not Liddell: “Go back to Queensland Pauline you have NO idea about my Hunter Valley. This is NOT Liddell Power Station it is Bayswater Power Station across the road. You had better get Jimmy Ashby better trained in research skills. HOW EMBARRASSING. PS. The sign is on the gate.”


All’s Fair in love and war. Harold Mitchell’s resignation as chair of Free TV Australia, following the ASIC lodging action against him, will likely relieve some fears about the organisation’s membership. However, Free TV CEO Bridget Fair, seems to state the opposite. In a statement this week, she said she’s “very sorry to be losing Harold, who has been an outstanding Chairman for Free TV”.   

Mitchell faced allegations from ASIC that claim, among other things, he “passed on to the Seven Network confidential information about the interest of its competitors in acquiring … rights”. This tracks with feelings in some parts of the TV industry that Free TV Australia had a pro-Seven Network tinge to it. The suspicion in the industry was that Mitchell was closer to Seven and its major shareholder, Kerry Stokes, than to Nine, Ten or other members. Notably, Fair had also spent 18 years working for Seven. She took up the Free TV CEO role at the start of February this year, before which she was a director at Free TV.

Fair’s final role at Seven was as its head of corporate and regulatory affairs — in other words, Seven’s chief lobbyist in Canberra. In that role, she (and her counterparts at Nine, News Corp and Fairfax) had some spectacular coups, knocking off TV licence fees completely and getting it replaced with a much smaller “spectrum fee” of $40 million a year. This is in addition to big changes to ownership and control laws, which has allowed Nine to bid for Fairfax Media. She was very effective, laying the groundwork for the final lobbying efforts of her ultimate boss, Kerry Stokes.

In fact, so good was Fair at her job that the Seven West Media 2017-18 annual report notes “following the departure of Ms Fair, the company re-evaluated the role of Group Chief – Corporate and Regulatory Affairs and consequently this role ceased to be a Key Management Personnel role…”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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