A Singapore Airlines flight out of Melbourne on Saturday evening had to turn back two hours into the journey. No mechanical failure. No electrical failure. No terror alert. The airline recently voted top of the world for inflight amenities and food had apparently forgotten to load any water for the toilets.

Liberal backbenchers are more than a bit fed up with the officious manner of Malcolm Turnbull’s staff. Not only is it easier to get an appointment with the PM than His Turnbullness, it is impossible for backbenchers’ staff to get their calls put through to an adviser. Their excuse is that they are very busy, but so are other ministers’ offices and they manage to make their advisers available and grant audiences to MPs with their bosses. If he’s got leadership ambitions then he’s going the wrong way about currying favour with the backbench.

Most of the public servants around me are busy with incoming government briefs now being prepared, while getting sick of time consumed responding to ministers’ requests to write “electorate briefs” for every government-held seat in the country.

I was on a Jetstar flight home this morning and the Jetstar flight crew behind me were talking about how some of them had offers already from Tiger with better pay and same conditions. They seemed very happy.

Investigative journalists are researching BHP and the Great Artesian Basin. Shades of OK Tedi.

Re. “Aid to China?” (Friday, item 8) — there has been considerable internal discussion within AusAID on continuing aid to China, discussion which will only increase next year when China hosts the 2008 Olympics. China’s ongoing space program also raises embarrassing questions of priorities. The supporters of continuing aid have been arguing that China still has hundreds of millions of people living in poverty and, therefore, continued support is justified. However, if China can loan $8 billion to Africa, and outspend Australia in support to some Pacific neighbours, it is clearly just a question of priorities for the Chinese Government. The allocations within the aid program are clearly based on our “national interest”, not need.

Re. Publicly funded cars. Take a look at federal, public-servant, salary-package arrangements for car leasing. Leasing arrangements differ between departments but they stipulate a minimum, and not insignificant, annual mileage — for FBT and “commercial reality” reasons, you understand. The result is that while you are “mad” not to take the car as part of your package, ya “mad” if you don’t drive that V6 every single day and more besides because you’re contractually obligated to do so. Come tax time, family and friends of senior public servants are encouraged to take the work car for a spin to Sydney or Adelaide or Alice, so as to avoid penalties, especially if the senior executive lives close to work, enjoys cycling or is prone to using public transport.

Things are getting nasty in the seat of Kingston in South Australia (the most marginal Liberal-held seat in the nation). Labor Candidate Amanda Rishworth was recently invited by the Aldinga Bay Residents Association to speak to their regular meeting. Who should turn up, but the sitting MP Kym Richardson, complete with tape recorder and notepad. As Risworth told the meeting about her background and Kevin Rudd’s plans, Richardson taped her speech on his dictaphone, and even prompted members of the small audience to ask her questions. He must be worried about his 100-vote margin!

Two years ago I tipped Crikey to serious bullying being swept under the carpet at Melbourne’s Xavier College in Kew. Xavier has a strong culture of bullying, exacerbated by teachers being told to go easy on kids that are good at sport or have wealthy parents. Two years ago a student left half-way through year 12 and did not complete his VCE as a result. He had been in the hands of the school counsellors for six years, but the school did nothing at all to stop the bullies continue their activities all that time. He had been receiving death threats via SMS and MSN on a daily basis for months. The school refunded his year 12 school fees but their parting comment was “boys will be boys, he should be able to handle it”. His parents told me they found out the school loses 10 students a year to bullying and is relieved whenever a victim finally decides to leave as it saves them from having to take action themselves.