The Fairfax management has gone mad. Or I should say, madder. Today they told their longstanding and hardworking Sydney legal team that they are no longer needed. A newspaper telling its legal team they are no longer valued? What’s the message there? Apparently Fairfax intends to outsource any legalling, as if that will save any costs or improve efficiency. Don’t expect any more hard stories in the SMH or the Sun Herald.

In fact, you might well wonder if it is worth continuing to read the SMH at all under this regime. There’ll be plenty of fashion (all of page three every day and no doubt mostly DJs stuff) and plenty of lifestyle stuff, plus oodles of recycled PR releases, but no time or journalists to find hard stories that need any digging, take time or are in any way legally risky. The Fairfax management might as well turn to producing ‘shop till you drop’ guides.

So much for Fairfax job cuts not affecting the AFR. The AFR London bureau is going. Expect one of the best — Geoffrey Kitney — to be brought home in next few weeks. How would the AFR supremos communicate this to London — by email of course. Short people don’t have guts.

With Andrew Jaspan departing and Fairfax saying they’re looking for other things for him to do, it’s interesting to note that there’s a Fairfax Sunday editorship going in NZ…

Rio Tinto is helping the feds and Telstra out to pay for a optic fibre link from Jabiru to Gove in the NT. It is costing about $25M. These three say they don’t have the money to connect the larger homeland communities to the cable. Despite the rhetoric by; 1) Rudd for equality of schooling services, 2) the $3,500 million Rio Tinto spent on a recent upgrade of facilities and their commitment to work with the local communities, 3) commitments by Telstra to the bush. The small communities like Garrthala, Yilpara, Gangan, Dhalinybuy, Mapuru will again miss out.

Former Liberal Chief Minister Kate Carnell (aka The Hospital Imploder) has put up her hand to run for Bill Stefaniak’s just-vacated seat in Ginninderra. The catch: she will only do it if made leader. Zed, already reeling over Stefaniak’s departure, has been blindsided by this dramatic offer and as I write is desperately scrambling to shore up his own support amongst his colleagues. This has added fuel to a fire that has started between Zed and his up-to-now loyal sidekick Brendan Smyth. Word is they had both decided on their own separate candidate to fill the Ginninderra spot, sparking serious tensions between the two. A meeting had been scheduled at the Deakin HQ this Saturday with Liberal campaign officials in an attempt to avoid a serious rift emerging, but how this will play out now that Kate has thrown her cards on the table is anyone’s guess. All extreme options are apparently being considered because our latest polling has shown that Vicki Dunne is the single most disliked member of the Assembly from all parties. And the Party knows that if Vicki is the front-runner then they’re in serious strife out North. How Andrew will untangle this mess will be interesting to watch. To further complicate the situation, it is no secret that Kate is very close to Liberal money man Jim Murphy, who is funding in entirety the Liberal’s advertising campaign (said to total more than $284,000 for TV advertising alone). What conditions are attached to this money? Is Big Jim about to make Zed an offer he can’t refuse?

The contracted travel agent for a number of government departments with representation overseas has forewarned the department not to book flights with Qantas to the south east Asian region (i.e. Jakarta and Manila) as it will soon announcing that the flying kangaroo will no longer be flying to these destinations. Jetstar will be servicing these routes instead.

Having had a friend on QF12 out of LAX due into Sydney on Saturday morning but diverted to Brisbane, I was interested enough to run your anonymous correspondent’s comments past a good friend who just happens to be a 747 pilot. Your correspondent had told us that Qantas faked a weather problem in Sydney in order to cover up a problem with fuel pumps which would not deliver the fuel. My pilot friend makes the following comments which, in my view, rather detract from your correspondent’s interpretation: 1) the Terminal Area Forecast was showing strong winds and rain for Sydney — flight plans have to work on the forecast, which may ultimately differ from the actual weather, 2) the story about fuel pumps and tanks — “garbage I’m afraid”, 3) thirdly, pilots never lie on the PA — nor do they get pressure from management to do so — “just doesn’t happen”. In summary my Qantas pilot friend’s view (which I trust entirely) — “just blatant trouble-making inaccurate journalism. I almost sound like a company man but those are the facts”.

More fun and games with Qantas — stuck here on the Tarmac at Brisbane (on Wednesday). Now been sitting here for about an hour and a half. Apparently due to some tape peeling off the bit where the wing joins the body. Despite the immense confidence inspired by the knowledge that the plane is held together by tape it’s interesting listening to the pilot telling it straight. He’s told us on several occasions that this isn’t due to aircrew nor the engineers… this delay is down to the companies overtime ban on engineers. No question where his loyalty lies! Funny thing is I’m finding myself feeling glad my onward leg is with British Airways… and I can’t say I feel like that very often.

QF 94 LA to Melbourne was delayed three hours Monday night due to problems with the “Stabiliser” or so we were told. The captain apologised after take-off saying only that the “defects” (plural) had now been fixed.

It’s not just Qantas: I was on AirNZ flight to Wellington last Friday — halfway across the ditch they diverted to Auckland for unknown maintenance issue — finally got into Wellington at 1.30am.

Things will be very cosy in the WA parliament if all goes according to the ALP plan on Sept 6th. In the upper house we will have Jon Ford and his new partner Sally Talbot nicely ensconced in the upper house and Kate Doust in the upper house with her partner Bill Johnston in the lower house. Lil Ravelich in the upper house and her partner Eric Ripper in the Lower house. I am sure I must have missed some but that is a good start.

Peter Fray

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