The Westfield Shopping complex at Chatswood in Sydney is rumoured to have 35 tenants who are behind in their rent by six months or more. Management cannot kick them out because the centre would be like a ghost town. Worse to come in 2009?

Not sure what it was all about but we were amazed to see Malcolm Turnbull bailed up in Willoughby Road, Crows Nest at lunchtime on Friday by a very angry woman. She was screaming abuse at him at quite a volume while at least four cameramen took pics!

Department store Myer quietly made 15 people redundant last week, including two very senior managers. These are the first directors, or equity partners, to be shown the door (with massive packages including substantial equity buyouts) and the move is a clear signal that things are going from bad to worse for owners TPG. Overall, the ratio of selling staff to sales at Myer is the lowest since the failed “productivity” period of the mid to late 1990s, when Myer started looking more like Kmart. The “pile it high watch it fly” phase, when staff numbers were cut and service was limited to processing transaction, resulted in EBIT reaching close to $200m, before the brand collapsed into huge losses in 2000/01. Ominous signals…

The current immolation at Opera Australia proves it best to leave the drama on the stage. This is an overdue public outing that should have taken place twenty years ago when the abyss of mediocrity seeds were initially sown. The story has generated media interest because whistleblower Fiona Janes’ claims are views shared by many within the company and amongst opera Australia patrons. Public scrutiny of the organisation was long overdue and memories of Simone Young will linger far longer than the memory of one single member of the OA Board or its cynical management.

But make no mistake — this is trivial stuff compared with an insider’s knowledge of the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Model plans to merge the Conservatorium with the VCA School of Music. If you want to experience an abyss of mediocrity look no further than the music teaching studios at Melba Hall, Parkville. The classical music arts in Australia are a mess. The Uni Melb Music Faculty stars have left or are leaving prior to the amalgamation which leaves the sort of tone deaf dross that couldn’t teach a dog to roll over let alone inspire a young performer to reach for the stars.

How do I know this? Because my three children all went through this music school until recently and now study in the United States where they are receiving a real music education and not the sort of phony grandiloquence from the stuck up old tarts on Royal Parade, Parkville. If a UM staff member reads this and is tempted to follow in Fiona Janes’ brave footsteps now is the time to bare all — before the paint on the Melbourne Model dries and these frauds continue their charade while pretending that they have the students best interests at heart.

ABC’s Director of Radio, Sue Howard, is directly behind the plan to axe a swathe of quality programs from Radio National. The targeted programs — though not in the news and current affairs division — are produced, researched and presented by quality journalists. Howard actually harbours axing Radio National altogether and using the funds to boost her fluffy local radio networks. Media outlets a few years ago revealed her secret plan to do just that, during one of the perennial ABC cost cutting exercises. The ABC denied it — and Howard quickly backed off the idea internally — but the rabbit was out of the hat.

Howard had definitely nominated RN to be axed in one of her cost proposals to Finance. Denials cleverly said there were “no current plans” to do so. She wants radio — even news and current affairs programs — to be more rock and roll. Chat, bubble and squeak. She is ratings obsessed but doesn’t acknowledge the ABC’s real ratings powerhouse. One of the lesser known facts of Australian radio is that the most listened to slot does not belong to Neil Mitchell or Alan Jones — it is the ABC’s 45 minutes from 7.45am to 8.30am (news then AM).

It is little known because Howard and her managers deliberately exclude any mention of NewsCaff when crowing about morning ratings for, say, Jon Faine or Deb Cameron (and previously Angela Catterns) in the past. The news division actually supplies about 60 per cent of the air time in those morning slots. Most of the spikes on ABC radio networks are news based or for current affairs shows.

This email sent on Friday morning to all Media Monitors Sales staff/Account Managers:

From: Helpdesk
Sent: Friday, 17 October 2008 8:54 AM To: State and NZ Management; National Account Management Teams; NZ Account Management Cc: State Assistant Managers; IT Support
Subject: Problem with Press news alerts – Resolved

Dear All,

The issue with Press News Alerts has been resolved.

Apologies for any incontinence this issue may have caused.

Please contact Helpdesk if you have any questions.

Thank You

IT Helpdesk
Media Monitors Australia
Level 3, 219 – 241 Cleveland Street,
Strawberry Hills, NSW

Potential for problems with the reliability of automatic flight control systems in “newtech” aeroplanes were reported on by Australian CAA in 1987. CAA was powerless to do anything about it in face of pressure from manufacturers on airworthiness authorities of manufacturing nations. AFCS should be designed so that their reliability can be checked routinely.

Peter Fray

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