A source in the Brisbane Airport Control Tower has told a friend of a friend that Elton John’s private jet very nearly caused mayhem as the bewigged bespectacled crooner fled Brisvegas yesterday, after a rather bizarre gig at a regional Queensland town no one had previously heard of. Our source says Sir E’s plane rolled up to the departure point, then inexplicably turned the wrong way and began to fire up his jets to take off – on a taxiway, not the runway. Was the pilot distracted by the in-flight entertainment, perhaps? Meantime, some fast talking between the control tower and the jet saw Sir E, who was no doubt engrossed in a cheap paperback by now, pull up and try again, this time on the runway. How the pilot managed to mistake a narrow taxiway for a major international runway bedecked with lights, lines and markings in broad daylight will no doubt be the topic of some conversation in a plush suite at the LA Galaxy-Sydney FC game tonight.

While the media has been packing the Supreme Court in Hobart from the Bryan Green case, next door the amazing saga of CASA versus Qantas appears to be lurching toward an outcome. No fewer than four QCs are representing the two Qantas pilots being prosecuted for taking off from Launceston Airport on October 23, 2001, without activating the runway lights. Our court spy tells us that the legal fees alone from this historic but fiercely contested criminal prosecution of Qantas pilots by the air safety regulator could probably have paid for half the pulp mill that will turn out the lights on local Launceston tourism industry.

Sign of the times. Alexander Downer half way down the cabin in Seat 12B on Virgin’s Monday afternoon Adelaide – Canberra flight, learning the ropes of cattle class including exit row responsibilities.

Bennelong Blues. What happened to the Bennelong voters? Almost 5% of them voted informally. The National average informal vote was 3.88%, well below Bennelong’s performance. Had all informal voters in Bennelong opted for Howard, he would have had a resounding win.

Keep an eye on Macarthur. There was a poll worker at Rosemeadow booth who did not initial forms for several hours. The booth swung hard to Labor. If the postal votes keep Nick Bleasdale in touch, I would assume there would be a protest. See the pollbludger site for further details from the Greens candidate. I spoke with the Democrats candidate on election day after this was revealed. The votes at that point were held but not counted.

We voted at Erskineville Primary and our senate papers were also not initialled – my partner even asked the polling clerk if this was a mistake only to be told that she had not been initialling any of the papers. Pretty worrying if this is a widespread trend.

On Saturday at Glenbrook, the local member Kerry Bartlett had a flashing sign like the ones the RTA uses to warn motorists of roadwork. Very interesting, since they are not usually used for such purposes.

I was handing out how to votes for the Greens at a Perth booth on Saturday and spoke to my Liberal counterpart. He was a French backpacker being paid $25 an hour as was his five travelling campaigns at different booths. After I had to explain to him that the Daniel Nikoli (the local Liberal candidate) was not the prime minister, he went and slept under a tree for a couple of hours. People intending to vote for the Liberals had to collect the how-to-votes them from the box which he placed beside his sleeping body.

Apparently in North Sydney, Joe Hockey’s seat, Liberals dressed in mufti outfits were handing out green coloured how-to-votes telling people to vote 1 Greens 2 Lib, directing the Greens vote to them instead of Labor. The AEC have been informed.

Qantas Engineers seek protected IR action, the first shot in the new IR climate about to be fired… EBA negotiations breakdown

The Immigration Department are tracking for millions of dollars over budget, over $50m. Critical new border security system involving alert lists are regularly failing, the new computer systems described as “lipstick on a pig”, a hostile environment for staff with senior management delighting in each others’ failures and a secretary unable to manage budget or senior management bullying behaviour. The staff are voting with their feet, as record numbers of staff are leaving or looking for jobs elsewhere. Major issues were identified in a staff survey even though it conveniently excluded comment on the most senior management. The culture is far worse than prior to the Rau and Alvarez cases and the three new senior management brought in after the previous three were sacked have been unable to turn the department around or deliver true outcomes from government funds allocated after the Rau and Alvarez cases. The recommendations from relevant reviews following those cases were not implemented but they will spin it to look like they have. Senior management very skilled in looking good to externals but insiders know better.

The focus of the Immigration Department IT Deputy Secretary is to meet deadline after deadline so he can say and look like he is delivering – but reality is that deadlines are all at expense of quality implementations achieving value outcomes for staff and clients. Front-line immigration staff think that the systems are atrocious. IT staff at all time high stress levels because they want to do a good job and deliver real outcomes. Staff with experience in the systems are ship – both permanent staff and contract staff. Heading for a train wreck.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey