From the Crikey grapevine, it’s the latest tips and rumours…

Not so Hastie. Last week, Channel Nine (née Fairfax) lost its defamation case against Chinese billionaire philanthropist Chau Chak Wing, over a 2015 article that suggested Wing had bribed a UN official. That day, Liberal MP and Chair of the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Andrew Hastie (rightly) raised concerns about the perverse impact of defamation law on “responsible journalism” about national security matters. Hastie and Wing have a history — last year, the MP used parliamentary privilege to accuse Wing of being a co-conspirator to the bribe at the centre of the defamatory article.

Hastie’s newfound concern for journalistic probing on national security is a nice sentiment. But actions speak louder than words, so let’s not forget how last year, as chair of the committee, Hastie helped pave the way for sweeping new espionage laws, which, despite some dilution from the ALP, could still potentially see journalists spend 20 years behind bars for dealing with certain types of classified information. 

Nazis need your help. Ms Tips has been keeping an eye on the “will they or won’t they” so-called Deplorables tour. It purports to be bringing Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, English Defence League founder and anti-Islam campaigner Tommy Robinson, and the human form of the scene where Nazis start showing up in Cabaret, Milo Yiannopoulos, to the country. The tour has sent out another missive to fans, describing Immigration Minister David Coleman’s decision on Yiannopoulos, McInnes and Robinson’s visa application (apparently happening this week) as “a watershed moment for Free Speech in Australia” and asking recipients to petition Coleman and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to allow the trio into the country.

Of course, McInnes has already had his visa denied. Yiannopoulos has never publicly confirmed his involvement in the tour and had a major falling out with tour organiser Damien Costas last year. Oh yeah, and then there’s all that “possible bankruptcy” business afflicting Costas. Aside from a reference to McInnes’ visa woes, none of this potentially relevant information makes its way into the email.

Law Council rips government twice. Even the lawyers have turned against the government now. Last week, the Law Council of Australia, the peak body representing the legal profession, came out swinging against the government twice: calling out their proposed family court merger and appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

LCA president Arthur Moses SC, not normally prone to such strong language, slammed the government’s plan to merge the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court as “catastrophic”, warning that the proposal would “compound the court’s problems, not solved them”. Attorney-General Christian Porter is desperate to pass the highly controversial merger in the final parliamentary sitting days. But the bill, which is intended to improve efficiency in the chronically backlogged and underfunded court, has consistently drawn criticism from the legal profession.

Just days later, Porter was again in the LCA’s crosshairs, after the government appointed 14 former Liberal MPs and staffers to the AAT, raising accusations from Labor of stacking. A more measured Moses called the government’s lack of transparent, merit-based appointment “concerning”, warning that “the appearance of a conflict of interest can be just as damaging to the AAT’s integrity as an actual conflict”.

AFR’s subbing is fukt once more. Have things under the new Nine Entertainment ownership of The Australian Financial Review sunk so low that they can’t afford anyone to check page one before it is printed?  The front page of today’s paper has a pointer to a story about British Airways turning 100. The subhead reads: “Its reputaton on the line, the airline looks ahead…”  

Yep, “reputaton”. Of course, there are mistakes galore in every media outlet these days because of a lack of resources, but at least you’d expect a major Australian newspaper to jealously guard its front page, wouldn’t you?

May-be shark. We in the Crikey bunker have long chronicled the calamity that follows any attempt by British Prime Minister Theresa May to convince people she is a human being. A small update to this process is May’s meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte — in footage he has posted to twitter, he suggests a game of pool, and May demonstrates the same familiarity, grace and assurance with a pool cue that a newborn giraffe typically displays in their interactions with the ground. Sadly, the video cuts out just as she is to take her first shot, depriving us of the moment where she pulls off a Fast Eddie style trick shot, revealing that she is, in fact, a pool shark, fleecing small-timers like Conte. Of course, the true shark always looks like they’ve only won by sheer fluke, thus encouraging you to take them on again. We’re sure there’s a Brexit analogy here somewhere. 

Magic happens. Ita Buttrose might be in line for chair of the ABC, but on the weekend she was at the edge of her chair during the Melbourne premiere of The Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling’s theatrical Harry Potter spin-off. Sydney-based Buttrose tweeted glowingly about the show, praising the “amazing effects” and giving it a “15 out of 10” (a rating we’re inclined to agree with). Buttrose was seen in line for drinks at the mid-show supper, insisting on more ice in her glass. Let’s hope that kind of decisiveness doesn’t thaw out in the face of pesky government ministers. Also seen on the night: Sunrise‘s Kochie, ABC doyennes Annabel Crabb and Virginia Trioli, comedian Celia Pacquola, The Project‘s Waleed Aly and Peter Helliar, author Susan Carland, radio hosts Sam Pang and Jacinta Parsons and Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. 

Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to [email protected], use our guaranteed anonymous form or other ways to leak to us securely.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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