Senator John Faulkner told Kevin Rudd it could never be done, but Rudd persisted. So it was that in mid-January every living ex-Labor Prime Minister gathered for dinner at Kirribilli House. Faulkner had doubted that any room could ever encompass the ego clash that would follow the meeting of Messrs Hawke and Keating, but the two came to dinner, joining Rudd, Faulkner and Whitlam at table. Exact figures are not available, but the wine bill is said to have easily eclipsed the miserly total of John Howard’s end of an era Lodge farewell to his ministry late last year.

Interesting to note that the latest round of Brendan Nelson’s musings on AWA and defending WorkChoices coincides with the announcement that three out of seven of Brendan Nelson’s senior staff were formerly employed by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, with a fourth rumored to be joining the office soon. That would mean half of Brendan Nelson’s Senior Advisers were formerly employed by ACCI…

Why when the environment and energy are big issues is the Queensland Government allowing Queensland Health employees to get cheaper electricity, and therefore use more, under extended salary sacrifice provisions?

Much consternation at The Age over the new seating plan for journalists that accompanies Andrew Jaspan’s very expensive “newsroom of the future” redesign. Apparently the desks will be arranged in almost a schoolroom like structure in rows – the consternation arises because anyone who is not in the back row will no longer be able to look at private stuff on their computers (p-rn, dodgy emails and the like!) and will no longer be able to get away with doing work that’s unrelated to their paid employment. Everyone behind them will see it. Apparently there’s much jostling for a seat in the back row!!

Last week’s Brickworks story was not fully informed. Bricks are being priced out of the market because the cost of laying bricks has doubled over recent years and bricks are losing market share in medium density to precast concrete construction. The homes will be built – but not with bricks. Look for Brickworks to try to enter the precast concrete market.

Friday’s Financial Review: I usually buy it on Fridays and like the AFR – it is your guide to the world of issues, ideas and opinion. There are two articles straight from the website Arts & Letters Daily. Nemirovsky & the 17th century origins of globalisation. Do they do their research on that site?

Air Traffic Controller news: CASA says there is no need to “regulate” ATC work hours, in the same way that pilot hours are regulated, because of the protections offered in the “Certified Agreement” (which could be negotiated away) and the robust Safety Management System operated by Airservices Australia. The existing Certified Agreement can be altered by a “Facilitative Agreement” (which truly means no protection) by majority vote; or individual vote depending on the FA offered. In recent times this, lack of regulation, has resulted in one ATC working from 2pm through to 5am, by “Facilitative Agreement”. Rumour has it that last Monday a controller worked from 6am through to 12pm and then back again at work for another shift commencing at 4pm; a full 4 hour break between shifts; or 2 hours of down time (roughly) when you exclude the time taken to travel to and from work. It would also appear that no Facilitative Agreement was established so was it legal, one wonders if any safety assessment was done? The regulator must make this employer accountable; after all it is only air safety.

Air Traffic Controller news 2: Launceston tower was closed again on Saturday, 9 February from 2pm until normal tower closing time. (7 hours 45 mins early).

Air Traffic Controller news 3: Sunday 10 February. Airservices has continued the tradition and closed more airspace for 3 hours, due to lack of staff. This time the “low” (HUM/OVN/DOK/JVS/YAS) airspace between Sydney and Melbourne, including the “High and Low” airspace in Southern NSW and Eastern Victoria; we call it SNO Sector (Snowy, as in mountains) Sector. See the links here, here and here for the closed airspace. When do you think this will gain political/media capital to fix the problem? Anyone checked the Airservices recruitment/employment pages; when are we getting these so called overseas recruits? Particularly given they aren’t taking recruits at present. “Applications for the Global Search for experienced Air Traffic Controllers have now closed. Submit your application here to be considered for other future positions.”

Are you aware of a Singapore airlines A380 that ran off the runway in Singapore Last week? Said A390 was taxiing to take off point when the aircraft ran off the side of the runway. No amount of Coaxing was going to move it. Pax were politely told NO photos and Singapore Airlines has been busy smothering affected pax with all sorts of gifts.

Sitting in the Qantas Club in Melbourne on Wednesday 6 January, between 12.30pm and 1.30pm. Five flights were announced as being delayed not because of weather or late arrival of aircraft, but because of “delays in cleaning of the aircraft.”

Qantas calls itself the spirit of Australia. Qantas has canceled a long standing contract with an Australian manufacturer in Tasmania who were produce their wool blankets for business and first class. This contract was 25% of the manufacturer’s income. Now Qantas is getting their blankets from China! So is Qantas now the spirit of Australia or the spirit of China?

On Friday afternoon a Qantas Boeing 747 from Perth to Melbourne had to return to Perth an hour into the flight because an engine broke down. When everyone had de-planed the captain addressed the 200 plus passengers in the departure hall and offered to personally reassure any nervous flyers. Meanwhile: Just flew from Singapore to Brisbane on QF52 7.2.08. Flight was delayed by 2 plus hours as a tap was found to be leaking and unable to be switched off.

One would assume that Mike Rann premier of South Australia would do some research on what the Mitsubishi parent company actually does. It seems that Mitsubishi Heavy industries does a lot of things that can be very beneficial to a state. Rather than Mike lashing out he should have researched the benefits of a company owned site. Then Mike could have encouraged the parent company to explore an upgrade to the state’s antiquated rail system or explore renewable power systems. Or get them to build a nuclear power plant at Pt Stanvac and use all that uranium that is being dug out of the ground. Then the southern suburbs won’t be blacked out when that power hungry desalination plant comes online. Just a thought!

Peter Fray

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