The National Innovation Review Green Paper got an extension of a month. Apparently the volume of submissions was just too high.

Is the Prime Minister still writing his own speeches? Take a look at the Tom Burns lecture that he gave last week. Certainly not a Keatingesque or Whitlamesque masterpiece to be sure. But if he doesn’t need speechwriters, maybe he needs a spellchecker. That would avoid mistakes like this: Tom Burns “chaired the Queensland China Council forr the Queensland State Government”. Crikey! Looks like a last minute rush job to me.

No LNP online: Showing all the cyber-literacy that we have come to expect from the conservative side of politics, the Queensland Nationals were a bit slow off the mark in laying claim to some turf for their new party, the Liberal Nationals, on that interweb thing the youngsters are always going on about. Serial cyber-squatter Wayne Smith struck first and registered http://www.liberalnationalparty.com, as well as other permutations such as .org. The Springborgians are stuck with the clunky and non-intuitive www.lnp.org.au. Then again, who needs the interwebs when the LNP’s main boast about Queensland is that it is “the state with unrivalled agricultural capacity”? That’ll get ‘em flocking in the south-east, Larry.

A friend heavily involved in the Victorian ALP tells me that former Channel Nine boss and Collingwood Football Club President, Eddie McGuire AM, is now a paid and passionate member of the ALP (a quick flick of Eddie’s column in any edition of the Sunday Herald Sun would confirm that) and that factional heavies at King Street are working out how they parachute Eddie into a safe seat for the 2010 election.

Overheard on a tram… Melbourne’s Nova radio station provides free theatre and concert tickets to celebrity Underworld wife Roberta Williams, in return for her occasional on air appearances. Surely with all her cheque book journalism gigs she can afford to buy her own tickets to see A Cat on Hot Tin Roof.

World Youth Day — many suppliers and contractors remain unpaid with World Youth Day Trust in breach of various contracts with cleaning companies, plumbers, electrical contractors who get told that they will get paid when the public servants get time to pay them. Many millions are owed!

The first public announcement that the NSW Government is developing a cultural plan appears to be tabled (see here). The NSW Public Works Committee is to examine and inquire into the development of an arts and cultural plan for NSW and the alignment of this plan to broad government planning strategies for the development of arts and cultural infrastructure outside the Sydney CBD, including regional areas.

Nearly four million taxpayer dollars has been wasted in a smoke cleaning system at the Fire Service Academy at Whyte Island, Brisbane. Two other systems are in use in Australasia and the work at removing 99% of the smoke generated during essential hot fire training and both of these came in at well under one million dollars. Management of Whyte Island spent over four times this to build a unit that would only remove about 45% of the toxins in the smoke. But unfortunately it does not even remove 10%! Firefighters meanwhile just want to get rid of the older appliances still in use that suffer from unreliable brakes.

Barbara Cassani is being tipped by some insiders as the replacement for Alan Joyce as CEO of Jetstar. True or false, Cassani is a dream candidate. She headed British Airways low cost carrier Go when it was founded in 1997 and tore strips off the parent company’s market share on short haul flights. The UK competition authority blocked BA from telling Go where to stop, unlike the pushover situation in Australia, where the ACCC allowed Qantas to dictate Jetstar’s routes and fares. One of the first things Rod Eddington did when he took over at BA after quitting Ansett was to sell Go to private equiteers, who promptly sacked Cassani and sold Go to easyJet, making a minor thorn in BA’s side into a major competitor. Cassani went on to head up the early stages of the London 2012 bid before her US nationality was given as one reason for her passing the baton to Lord Coe. Has Qantas succeeded in tempting Cassani to quit the board room circuit in Boston for Melbourne? We should know soon.

Airservices Australia is not providing the correct level of service within the Australian airspace as has been documented quite clearly. The provision of Air Traffic Control Services with in Australian Airspace is mandated to be the core business of Airservices. However the business direction of ASA has been modified over the last two years with significant investments being made in the development of new technology landing aids — the key one being GBAS (Ground Based Augmentation System).

In 2006 ASA signed a contract with Honeywell Aerospace for the joint development of this new landing system — the arrangement was that ASA paid $US30 million over a two year period to Honeywell to fund the development of this system. ASA would conduct trials and certify the prototype system — this is currently installed at Sydney Airport with certification due in 2009. ASA and Honeywell agreed to divide the world in two with each party having agreed exclusivity in their part to promote and sell the system to prospective customers i.e airports — under the original business plan presented to the ASA board as justification for the investment — ASA would sell sixteen systems in 2007.

To date none have been sold — the system requires aircraft to have a new and sophisticated receiver system (MMR) on board — only the latest generation aircraft have the MMR installed. Consequently by purchasing the GBAS system airports would still have to maintain their existing Instrument Landing System (ILS) therefore there is no financial or business advantage to the airport. Rather than concentrating on their core business of providing Air Traffic Control ASA has been diversifying their business into the development and sale of hardware systems – an area in which they have no expertise. This is a material factor which has led them to their current situation. In addition they have invested significant sums of money in non-core business – with no return.

There were NOTAMs (Notice To Airmen) issued for Sydney on Saturday, restrictions (due to staff shortages). And Sydney Tower was left this week on Voluntary Redundancy (an outcome of the Supervisor selection last year) and two more leave this week (Retirement and Resignation (Dubai ATC)). Things are likely to get much much worse before we see improvements. What you are not seeing is the number of times staff are extending or changing their shift to cover shortages. Please note that not all shortages are due to sick leave. ATCs (small number) are being pulled off the roster to do project work and then there is an expectation that this will be covered on overtime. Very risky and the airlines should be alarmed. Staffing number have been driven into the ground and there is no capacity to do all the other ancillary tasks like procedure development, training development, safety assessments and the like.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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