Have you us seen the new WA Today website — Fairfax’s new portal on the West? Those of us on the West Coast were looking forward to someone setting up shop in opposition to the single limp daily we suffer at the moment. Unfortunately what we got was SMH content with a thin veneer of local stories provided by a few hacks trawled from community freesheets. Current hot local breaking news item: “freeway ramp closed tonight.” They have recruited a motley assortment of bloggers, including a has-been talkback radio jock and a former Australian of the Year, to write about cutting-edge topics such as binge drinking and the paucity of state pensions. Current favourite is Daile Pepper who started a local “lifestyle” column that promises to “feed you all the must-have knowledge for… breathing… in this modern world.” One wonders what new methods of respiration she has discovered? She has already been christened “Shallow Spice”, and her blog tagged as “S-x and the Subi”. We all hope that the website might be a scouting mission for Fairfax into the West which may result in a new print daily. Twiggy Forrest has made noises about putting his wallet behind a new paper, if only he could find a partner with a printing press…

Grassy knoll: Are Kevin Rudd and Nicola Roxon are about to sign off on using taxpayers’ money to help Medibank CEO George Saviddes regain Medibank’s position as the #1 health insurer in Australia, by acquiring AHM health insurance for $350m?

Seen dining and a wonderful time at the Titans game on the Gold Coast Monday night was a large delegation from PNG including two government Ministers. All the talk was about PNG being the next expansion location of the NRL.

Jetstar is not as profitable as Dixon would like everyone to believe, as many costs are being carried by Qantas. The latest is that Jetstar pilots are being trained on the Airbus A330 in Australia in Qantas’ simulator ($30,000), while Qantas pilots training on the same aircraft are being sent over to London at a cost of over $100,000 each. Dixon and Joyce keep saying that Jetstar is a profitable stand alone entity, but everything they get is subsidised by the parent company. The constant statements regarding the “profitability” of Jetstar has to be close to misleading the stock exchange and shareholders, and Ben Sandilands should look into the finances, surely it shouldn’t take too much digging to find the number fudging. Engineering costs that Qantas charges, fuel hedging, and the rate Qantas charges Jetstar to send Qantas planes when Jetstar breaks down should all be looked at.

Did anyone notice this gem from Myer CEO Bernie Brookes in The Age (Melbourne) Mag, later reprinted in the SMH?: “Cutting the reliance on sales is, says Brookes, “like extracting someone who’s a heroin addict: you can’t go cold turkey, because you’ll brain the business”. But he knows it’s essential. “We’ve got a business that doubles during stocktake time, which might sound fantastic, but how do you cater for that, with the same number of registers and the same size stores? You just create an ugly store. You’d be much better off growing your business by 20 per cent for five weeks rather than 100 per cent for one week.” As bizarre as the heroin analogy is, Myer has thrown the “not grow the business by 100% in a week” strategy out the window already. Stocktake Sale started last week, while the catalogue dropped in daily newspapers today. That means the sale was moved forward a week, and the decision was made too late to shift the catalogues. In department store retailing, the catalogue is the big gun and always marks the start of the sale. Desperation, or just more heroin?

Talk about rugged individualism. “Australia’s wheat growers” – in fact, just the self-styled “Wheat Growers Action Group” (WGAG) are taking their complaint about the Government’s wheat bill – and the removal of the single desk – to the United Nations. In a press release this week, WGAG declared it had written to the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation about the Government’s draconian imposition of… um, competition, into the industry. WGAG says that this will “see food prices increase locally and further catastrophic food shortages world wide.” Send the blue caps in to protect the silos! Grain enthusiasts are urged to sign the petition at www.concernedwheatgrowers.com.

Well done Crikey. I did a Google search for “Emo Man” today, and the eighth page returned was Brendan Nelson’s electorate website!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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