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CBD Melbourne: A very Canberra literary war

In happy news, centre interim director Meg Wilson, told CBD hostilities had ceased and it would refrain from further media comment and join forces with the festival.

But in an unexpected twist, Wilson acknowledged her very own ACT Writers Centre, also needed to sort out its lack of diversity. With a board and patron whiter than a group of SBS executives she admitted there was room for improvement.

“We are actively recruiting people of colour to join our board,” Wilson said. The centre promises significant structural changes, amendments to the constitution as well as paid opportunities for writers of colour and a new advisory board.

BUILDING BRIDGES

There was a time when Tony Barry and Kosmos Samaras plotted each other’s downfall from opposing sides of Victoria’s Liberal-Labor political divide.

Barry learnt his trade with Liberals research legends Mark Textor and Lynton Crosby and was a senior staffer to Malcolm Turnbull during Turnbull’s first stint as party leader. He also had a brief but memorable walk-on role in the Godwin Grech scandal.

More recently Barry carved out a new role for himself as chief media minder for former Victorian Liberal leader Matthew Guy at the same time Samaras was a key campaign strategist for Daniel Andrews’ Victorian Labor. And we all know how that ended.

But the two political gunslingers have now hung up their six-shooters with Samaras having left Labor in January and teaming up with political psychologist – yes, that’s an actual job – Simon Welsh to form the RedBridge consultancy.

RedBridge has now reached across the political divide, hiring Barry to work on research projects with all concerned a little coy about what they are actually doing and who they are doing it for.

The state’s lobbyist register is more helpful. The group has nabbed listed industrial and security contractor Broadspectrum. Others on the list include the Grollo family’s developer Grollo homes, and Michael and Andrew Buxton’s developer, MAB Corporation.

While the unexpected bipartisan double act of Samaras and Barry will raise eyebrows in Victorian political circles, the Liberal veteran is actually no stranger to cross-party business ventures. Just lately Barry has been working with Brisbane “strategic services” outfit Next Level, helmed by former Bill Shorten chief of staff Cameron Milner and former Campbell Newman chief lieutenant David Moore.

Talk about a challenge.

TIKTOK HIRING

TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media platform, has been banned in India over security concerns, and stopped in Hong Kong by its owners after China imposed a new security law. This week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed he was considering banning the platform in the States. Meanwhile, Australian MPs including Andrew Hastie and Tim Watts will tell you they have been flagging potential security issues for weeks.

Not that any of this has stopped TikTok from accelerating its Australian expansion. And, in fitting form, the app is hiring a team that knows how to handle a regulatory barrier or two.

TikTok in June hired Brent Thomas to be its new government affairs boss. The affable fixer comes fresh from leading government relations at short-stay giant, Airbnb. Of course, AirBbnb’s local expansion itself took a leaf straight out of the “act now, regulate later” book. The platform is now a mainstay of the local tourism industry.

Others to nab roles in the new office including former Google NZ country manager Brett Armstrong, and former Google and YouTube executive Lee Hunter.

No doubt it’s been a busy period in the office, particularly following Attorney-General Christian Porter’s announcement last week that the government would target social media platforms spreading “disinformation”. Not great for an app shown to have instructed its moderators to censor videos that mentioned Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence or the religious movement Falun Gong.

Singapore-based recruiters Gateway Search are still out in the market, apparently, looking for more team members. Crash or crash through, we guess.

A MANY SPLENDOUR THING

There’s been some rearranging of the financial deckchairs among the Canberra crowd.

Victorian senator James Paterson has bought an investment property on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula. It’s a fixer-upper, apparently, requiring some work before the young dad and his family put it on the rental market.

It’s been a good year for the enterprising senator, whose latest financial interests declaration shows he’s paid off the mortgage on an investment apartment in Canberra.

Tasmanian senator Claire Chandler has also been getting on top of her financial housekeeping. She’s switched mortgages to CBA from Suncorp.

Meanwhile, Queensland’s Labor senator Murray Watt attended a VIP event at Byron Bay’s Splendour in the Grass music festival last year. We know because he disclosed it in the financial interests register this week – almost a year after the fact. All updates are supposed to be filed within 28 days of receipt.

What was the hold up? The after-effects of a Splendour … bender, perhaps?

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