Due to dire Air Traffic Controller shortages, swaths of high-level Australian and Tasman airspace have been effectively “switched off”. Last week while preparing for a flight out of Brisbane, I was offered delay and alternative routing to avoid small sectors of TIBA air, but on a subsequent flight Sunday between Queensland and Victoria I was told a new sector of TIBA air “roughly the size of Victoria” lay ahead. All flights between Queensland and Melbourne/Avalon; Sydney or Canberra to Perth or Adelaide and Melbourne/Avalon to Adelaide/Perth above 24,000 feet were told they would be leaving controlled air and would have to arrange their own separation without even traffic information provided. Qantas, Virgin Blue and Jetstar jets, along with the occasional bewildered foreign operator were required to broadcast their positions and tracks, while attempting to monitor each others. This is a considerable deterioration in safety standards due to an understaffed state owned enterprise.

Another $20 million has been blown by AirServices Australia on a half baked plan for an air navigation enhancement called GBAS an acronym for Ground Based Augmented System which it has stuffed up in conjunction with Honeywell the US systems company. Word is out that the this is the sum for cancelling the contract. This crowd can’t manage new technology, and can’t even manage existing technology, having failed for months to roster enough controllers to keep the main air traffic control system working continuously even around Melbourne.

I saw a train on fire on Tuesday. I’m in WA. I was taking the Perth to Mandurah line when we stopped at Canning Bridge station. Soon after, some girl noticed that the train parallel to us was on fire. The fire wasn’t that big, just confined to a one wheel. The funniest part was when their driver came out and tried to blow the fire out. No fire extinguisher or anything, just his own breath. When that didn’t work, common sense prevailed and he decided to let his passengers off the burning train. This was at about a quarter to four.

Is our new PM prone to plagiarism? Seems so. He talks endlessly about “working families”. So did Bill Clinton. When saying sorry, he promised to “turn a new page”. So does Barack Obama. Yesterday, speaking on International Womens’ Day, he said “I am proud of the fact that we are a Government of all the talents.” So is Gordon Brown. Plagiarism is a hanging offence.

The unfortunately-named Ms Robyn Kruk, Director-General of the NSW Dept of Premier & Cabinet, last week sent this circular around to public service departments: C2008-07 Special Leave For Staff To Volunteer With World Youth Day Co-Ordination Authority (it’s publicly available on the Premier’s Dept web-site). It offers special leave on full pay to public servants to work as volunteers for the Catholic World Youth Day events. Curiously, it neglects to mention the necessity for a “Working with Children” check, which, given the hundreds of millions of dollars forked out by the Catholic church world-wide in compensation to victims of s-xual abuse by priests, seems a bit of an over-sight.

Peter Fray

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