I heard last night that the departure of George Wright from the Prime Minister’s Office is likely to set in train some other departures — most of them not voluntary. Wright was the best appointment to the PM’s office since the election. He is very respected. His leaving is a big disappointment to many in the government hoping for a more effective prime minister’s office. His leaving reflects poorly on chief of staff David Epstein and senior spinner Lachlan Harris. The micro-management, the internal administrative chaos, a failure to articulate a clear vision/narrative, and a 24-hour media cycle mentality rather than a strategic approach to media relations, which he pioneered with the ACTU’s WorkChoices campaign, is the reason for his leaving. Stay tuned for more changes. Key areas likely to a shake up when the PM returns from overseas are in general administration, following the Annie O’Rourke controversy of the 2010 Summit media contract; media and speechwriting, for the failures mentioned above; and caucus/cabinet liaison, which is poor. The push is coming from senior MPs and the National Party Head Office.

Beijing Olympics Tickets Saturday morning at the womens basketball. Australia vs. Belarus and New Zealand vs. Mali — two excellent games, but the stadium at most a third full. Lots of people walking around outside asking if they could buy tickets; no-one could. Not sure if this showed up on TV coverage but very evident if you were watching inside.

Crikey was correct about the tip regarding Westpac staff losses. My husband works for Westpac and has been to three farewell dinners this week — all well respected, high achieving, senior executives and all thanks to Gail Kelly’s “smiling assassin” who is quietly getting on with the job of replacing Westpac people with both St George and Comm Bank “mates”.

I was on a QF fright from Heathrow last weekend and up the very pointy end. Imagine my surprise when the captain and another chap with gold stripes on his shoulders opened up a hatch in the floor and went down the ladder, torches and manual pages in hand. Turns out there was plumbing problems and they wanted to check the electronics (at least they know to check now). The front galley floor was covered in towels, the first class toilets were out of action and so were upstairs business class. The captain was jolly pleasant about it all and came around to each of us to explain what they’d been doing down there — that personal services is what it’s all about isn’t it?

Is Banco Santander of Spain coming back to sniff around Bankwest AKA HBOS Australia? Rumours from the finance industry suggest the Spanish bank, which is in the process of buying the struggling Alliance and Leicester Bank in the UK to go with its Abbey banking business, remains interested in buying the local operations of HBOS, the struggling UK’s bank. There were rumours several weeks ago that the Morgan Stanley investment bank’s London office had been trying to get a consortium up to buy HBOS, with Santander taking the UK operations and the National Australia Bank the Australian business. It’s now suggested the Spanish bank might be more interested in Australia and a consumer-based foothold in a growth market for a price much cheaper than a year ago. Santaneer will weather a housing loan crisis in the Spanish market (home base), but its Brazilian and other South American operations remain well performing and very profitable, and Australia and Asia is where it is under represented. Santander has ambitions to be a global bank.

Inner City Melbourne ALP SL Members are seriously converting the idea of finding a replacement for Bronwyn Pike come 2010. Many SL members and unhappy with her performance as a local member. One senior ALP operator from the left said that once her superannuation entitlements are settled she will be replaced. There was some discussion that she would be entitled to Superannuation if she lost preselection for the “Safe”inner city seat or if she lost the election. Members of the SOUL would prefer that she lose at presentation then lose at the next State election due in November 2010. What is clear is that Bronwyn no longer has the support of the local ALP membership. The other issue brewing in the background is that North Carlton, spured on by the success of Kensingtoncoll mount a campaign to have Carlton re-united under the City of Melbourne. The Campaign is expected to be launched in the lead up to the November municipal elections due in November this year.

Ron Walker’s son is also expected to put his name forward for nomination to the City of Melbourne. Ron Walker’s a former Lord Mayor of Melbourne — a portrait, commissioned by Ron himself, is still on display located near the men’s toilet in the Town Hall.

Just a quick little amusing snippet — Kevin Rudd’s Facebook page says he has 22, 819 “fans”. Brendan Nelson has 576.

Peter Fray

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