This week’s advisory from the Department of Foreign Affairs telling Australian journalists to leave Afghanistan has been followed by President George Bush’s decision to increase America’s military commitment to that beleaguered third world nation. For old hands in the foreign correspondent business this means only one thing: the American and NATO-led forces are going on the warpath and there will be massive civilian collateral damage. It is Bush’s last hurrah, a final offensive against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the remaining months of his catastrophic presidency. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith have decided to heavy the Australian media to pull out its journalists and TV crews so that the slaughter will not be broadcast in the happy homes of Ozzies enjoying grand finals and lead-up-to-Christmas parties.

When reading “venturousaustralia” — the report to Kim Carr on innovation released on Monday — don’t miss reading the normally dull reverse title page. There you will find that the copyright in this advisory report to the Commonwealth government is vested in the company owned by the chair of the advisory panel, Terry Cutler, who graciously permits the Commonwealth to use but not profit from the report. Is this an innovative move to privatise Crown copyright, or a new version of mates’ rates?

It’s fair to say the reappointment of Jane “kids overboard” Halton is a major shock within the Public Service. There had been a widespread expectation that she would be turfed out in October. Instead, yesterday the Prime Minister announced her reappointment for five years. There’ll be plenty of disappointment within bureaucratic and Labor ranks that the woman most closely associated with the Howard Government’s politicisation of the Public Service and the implementation of a divisive and immoral “whatever it takes” approach to public policy has been rewarded. Halton’s administration of the Health Department has hardly been an unalloyed success, either. Still, she gets the last laugh. In other appointments, Jeff Harmer was reappointed at FAHCSIA for five years, as was Mike Taylor at Infrastructure. Finn Pratt moves from DEEWR to run Centrelink for five years.

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Centrelink has a new CEO — Finn Pratt who is currently the Associate Secretary at DEEWR. Unless I missed the job ad, the Government has not honoured its pledge to use merit based selection for agency heads. This is despite the announcement from the Minister for Human Services in May that said: “It is the Government’s policy to have transparent and merit-based assessment in the selection of agency heads”. “In due course, the Secretary of my Department and the Public Service Commissioner will oversee a process to recommend a new Centrelink CEO,” Senator Ludwig said.

Tasmanian Liberal Senator Guy Barnett and the Jim Wallace (Australian Christian Lobby) appear to be in bed together! Not only are they singing from the same song book on removing medicare from second trimester medical termination of pregnancy (i.e., in cases where the fetus has died or the pregnant woman has a life threatening illness), but Senator Barnett is rumoured to have solicited a submission from the Australian Christian Lobby on the Sex Discrimination Act. Jim Wallace will be appearing before Senator Barnett on Thursday for the Senate Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s inquiry into the Act. He is one of the lucky 17 organisations and individuals (out of the 71 submissions) asked to appear before the Committee. His selection is particularly interesting given that his submission was made on 5 September, over a month past the submission deadline (31 July) — a date that was only extended by a maximum of one week for other NGOs who requested extensions prior to the deadline.

Did my eyes deceive me? Were people actually waving old South Vietnamese flags at the Republican convention?

The new look for Channel Nine Sydney starts next Monday.

Imparja TV/CAAMA take over Channel Nine Darwin this Friday.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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