Former Age editor Andrew Jaspan suing Fairfax after rejecting Fairfax’s offer of “editor-at-large” position.

Fresh from a lavish junket overnight stay at the Gold Coast at Conrad Jupiters for the PANPA newspaper conference, slash and burn chief operating officer of The Age David Skelton returned with his bathers from sunny Queensland to the Spencer St Soviet on Thursday empty handed with his victory speech intact after the Herald Sun scooped all of the big awards on Wednesday night. Already under a cloud from a related matter, Skelton’s newspaper of the year entry authored by a former Herald Sun hack, still adorns the walls outside The Age canteen much to the irritation of Age scribes. The Age staff canteen is in its dying days with next week being the last week of caterer Eurest’s contract thanks to Skelton’s decision to cut services ending food and drink after 5pm — despite 150 staff toiling each night to put the paper out. Dozy Age journos complaining that no coffee is available this week although reminiscent of food shortages in communist Russia, Skelton has ordered skeleton Eurest staff to distribute scraps from the freezer including old frozen pies and chicken to maximise savings. Reducing access to food and drink to us hungry hacks is estimated to save less than $100,000 per annum for The Age which has revenues of more than $300 million. Skelton has recently closed The Age‘s retail outlet at Spencer St much to the aghast of readers who can’t even buy our newspaper. Age wags now pointing out that if David Skleton’s $400,000 wage and perks such as junkets to Queensland were abolished it would allow the reinstatement of the canteen subsidy for 1000 employees and enable other basic services to be resumed after 5pm so editorial employees can do their jobs. With Age CEO Don Churchill gone AWOL, increasingly hungry Age journos are now waiting for Fairfax’s AGM in November to air their grievances.

Why is it that sychopants of the previous Government keep getting rewarded? Witness Jane Halton. Witness also one of her offsiders Margaret Lyons — now COO of Health and Ageing (formerly chief sychophant of Nationals Trade & Austrade Minister Mark Vaile) and recently recruited chief sychophant of anything regal Roger Bagley now AS at Health many wonder whether the years in wilderness were worth it? Where does this stop!

What is it with these young politicians? Matt Brown is not alone in his unbecoming behaviour. I was horrified to witness my MP’s dreadful treatment of his wife at Sydney airport just recently … and then continue the tirade once they had gotten off the aircraft at another airport. Just dreadful. Swearing, calling her names and putdowns, anger that as a parent sent shivers down my spine and all in front of their young child who just clung to her mum and pushed her father away when he went near her. He couldn’t be surprised by that. Dreadful. I wanted to intervene but who knows if it would have made it worse after. But isn’t that often the power in these situations — no one says anything so no one gets helped. It’s not the first I have heard of it sadly.

Despite the incoherent ramblings from the media in the West, the following has not been filtered through, despite being completely factual; 1) The seat of Moore was won by the Nationals on the back of ALP preferences. 2) John Bowler will deal with the winners of the Nationals support. 3) The Liberal hierarchy and leadership (both traditionally and in the present day) is locked into the Peppy Grove-Cottesloe-Nedlands triangle. 4) On the back of point 3, the ALP, rather than the prep-school Liberals, have more in common with working-class farmers and National voters. 5) Grylls has an opportunity to cement his name in WA politics, and also on the national scene. By allying with the ALP, the Nationals can regenerate their own identity, rather than being washed away by small-minded conservatism that has compromised their integrity since involving themselves with the Liberals. It will certainly be an interesting weekend, and all inside evidence suggests (and whispers) that the Nationals will strike an historic deal. Grylls has a fantastic opportunity, but closely linked to that is an even greater responsibility moving forward.

If the “Worst” Australian’s page-three “exclusive” story yesterday on the top-secret war game involving the F-35 was really top secret, would the briefing documents have been marked “unclassified”, as stated in the story? What were they thinking?

The appointment of Linda Burney as the new NSW Minister for Community Services brings together old contempories from the left faction of the ALP. The department’s director-general is Jennifer Mason, a former chief of staff to ex-NSW attorney-general Bob Debus who is now a junior minister in Kevin Rudd’s government. Mason’s executive team, listed in a current directory, is: deputy DG operations Annette Gallard, deputy DG service systems development Linda Mallett, deputy DG strategy, communication and governance Donna Rygate, deputy DG corporate service Jo Grisard, executive director communities division Sonja Stewart, executive director operations support Myra Craig, executive director operations development Anne-Maree Sabellico, executive director child and family welfare Eija Roti and executive director services funding strategy Toni Milne. The department’s performance is currently under the microscope by a special inquiry headed by former NSW Supreme Court judge James Wood, who conducted the royal commission into the police in the 1990s.

Crikey’s revelations about the dramatic shutdown of the Australian School of Business and Technology whose former CEO was Hornsby Mayor Nick Berman are casting a shadow over tomorrow’s council elections. (Nick Berman, political wannabe, and his failed overseas students’ college, Sept 10). Berman told Crikey he went on leave from the troubled education provider for overseas students on August 4. On the very same day he signed his candidate information sheet for the council elections stating his occupation was the school’s principal executive officer. Berman’s business card lists his involvement with three other associated businesses: Australian College of Aviation, Education Institute Pty Ltd and Avinash Nichkawde & Co Pty Ltd. The Liberal Party hardliner, who previously worked for federal Sport and Tourism Minister Jackie Kelly, the former MP for Lindsay, is hoping the Hornsby electors will give him a second four-year term in the mayoral robes at tomorrow’s poll. However, the incoming council’s time in office might be shortlived. Currently, it is facing a revolt by some ratepayers over management and financial issues and there have been calls for administrators to be put in charge.

ABC Television’s Australian Story is pressing ahead with its program on Belinda Neal, federal Labor MP for Robertson, wife of NSW Health Minister Belinda Neal and star of the fracas at Iguana’s waterfront restaurant at Gosford in June. Yesterday the TV crew was filming at Gosford’s annual flora show where “Typhoon” Belinda was wooing the locals. But an exchange with a flower seller unexpectedly turned icey when the woman protested about the proposed location of a new state school at Kariong. “It’s a State matter,” snapped Neal, before walking off. Neal is on a charm offensive, assisted by media sympathizers, in an attempt to hold onto her seat on the Central Coast. This week she was given space in the opinion pages of The Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Story is volunteering her 30 minutes of prime time as well. But local branches of the ALP are unlikely to be impressed and are demanding a pre-selection process be held next year to dump her and find a less divisive candidate.

Peter Fray

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