Two weeks after sacking 26 mid to senior managers due to rapidly declining sales, Myer is spending an extra $750,000 on its Birdcage enclosure at Flemington for the Melbourne Cup carnival. Myer has doubled the size of its tent, which has gone down very badly among staff in stores struggling to serve customers due to savage cut backs. Myer is now spending about $2.5m for the four day festival to water a few A-grade but mostly B-grade celebs, and the usual band of private equity cohorts who jet in from NY, San Francisco and Hong Kong for the party. And that sum does not include the cost of “international celebs” like Carson Kressley who fly in for the festival.

Isn’t it a bit strange that the Today show broadcast from outside David Jones in Melbourne, is being sponsored by the new David Jones American Express, when the lead story on all their news bulletins is how the economy is in free fall and the slowdown could last 2 years!! At the same time, the quirky weather man is handing out free American Express cards – hardly promoting sensibility in tough times

Channel Seven has axed The Great Outdoors. Worth taking a look at all of the regular programs that should be in pre-production for 2009. There’s a few not coming back.

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With all the talk about plagiarism among our senior pollies, I was struck with a strong sense of deja vu last night at the BCA’s annual dinner in Sydney. The PM’s speech was typically uninspiring and he ran through the usual facts, figures, quotes and kept telling us he was making “decisive” actions etc. He hardly looked up from his notes and barely changed the tone in his voice. This was not surprising as I’ve seen him speak before. But it was surprising to see him deliver virtually the same speech he gave two nights earlier in Melbourne at the Global Foundation annual dinner. The same facts, the same stats, the same quotes from people — the same speech. And it wasn’t that good the first time. In light of the Julie Bishop scandal, we now have a pollies copying themselves! Check the speeches out. Maybe his speechwriters are just lazy. Or maybe he needs new speechwriters. Or, perhaps, he is just writing his own speeches and recycling his own material.

About Paul Skinner, current Rio Tinto chairman. During the last 72 hours, he was forced by the Rio non-execs to come clean about his future plans. (Mayhew and Gould in particular.) A four hour meeting of the non-execs was needed to get the long overdue result for Rio Tinto’s shareholders. Good riddance, but possibly too late. Paul gambled that a hugely inflated purchase of another company (Alcan) would somehow immunise Rio Tinto from the BHP overture; dead wrong. All he achieved was to leave a once strong, proud (and rightly so), analytical and opportunistic company with a 40,000 pound dead albatross around its neck, in the form of $40bn of debt — at the worst possible time.

This is not hindsight — it was well known that the acquisition was done in a very frothy market — a most un-Rio Tinto like acquisition. $40bn for a company, Alcan, which was only ever worth $15bn, if you truly stretched the assumptions. More like 8 or 10bn on long-run prices. Paul was often scathing of Rio’s supposed risk averse stance under the previous direction — especially the “two Bobs” — Wilson and the late Adams. (God knows, they are missed!) He should be reminded that the only assets that, right now, stand between Rio Tinto and serious financial difficulties, given the debt load, are all assets acquired and operating well before he joined Rio. These are the Iron ore assets (Hamersley and Robe, acquired by two bobs in 2000), the copper business (KUC and Escondida in particular), the coal assets in Australia and a handful of others.

In the end, his legacy is the destruction of the fabric of a widely admired company. He leaves them with a dog’s breakfast called Alcan, and of course the $40bn debt stinker. He made no serious attempt to integrate Alcan in a synergistic manner — they are still pretty much the independent mediocre lot they were before. How he can justify leaving the CEO of Alcan in place is beyond anyone who had read the first two pages of M&A 101. Now he is rumoured to chair BP. Will they will come to their senses before it is too late?

Serious disquiet within Radio National. re Mr Crittenden’s meltdown on air. Seems as though he was fully aware and involved in discussions regarding the changes and had talked to other staff members about the obvious benefits. Day prior to his on-air diatribe, talked to a good mate and rapidly changed his mind. ABC staff less then pleased, etc.

Graham Freudenberg’s much-awaited book Churchill and Australia was launched in the Jubilee Room at Parliament House in Sydney yesterday by former Prime Minister Paul Keating. The launch was attended by a glittering band of Labor identities, academics and media. They included Senator John Faulkner, former Premiers Neville Wran and Bob Carr, former Treasurer Michael Egan, Channel Nine’s Laurie Oakes, broadcaster Mike Carlton, Tony Whitlam QC, Foxtel’s Kim Williams and Blanche D’Alpuget. Extraordinarily, not a single sitting Labor MP bothered to attend. It raises the question whether any of them can read.

Sour grapes for Greg Sheridan. In today’s Australian, Sheridan complains about the Liberals’ apparent lack of interest in foreign affairs. The measuring stick that he uses is the number of media releases issued by Helen Coonan, the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. But Sheridan gets his facts wrong. Since Coonan was appointed, she has issued 10 media releases, not the four that Sheridan claims. And in that same time, Stephen Smith has issued 13, some of which include non-substantive announcements (e.g. trip details). Any person with the slightest understanding of effective media realises that a media release has its pros and cons.

Certainly, the overall coverage is a better measure of what a person has to say on an issue than how many media releases they have issued. I know that I have seen Coonan on TV and heard her on radio and read her in print in relation to foreign affairs. The real point here is Sheridan is whinging about sour grapes for not being treated like the princess he likes to be. But worse than that, Sheridan thinks that the way of fixing the problem is by biting the hand that feeds him. Certainly, Sheridan’s status as senior journalist has nothing to do with his media skills.

Meanwhile on the grassy knoll: This issue has recently floated like an iceberg across the pages of the New York Times . The story connected with Sarah Palin’s spiritual helpmate the Reverend Muthee, lies below the mainstream media’s Plimsoll line, ready to gouge the hull of the US ship of state. See here. Sarah Palin’s churches are actively involved in a resurgent movement that was declared heretical by the Assemblies of God in 1949. This is the same “Spiritual Warfare” movement that was featured in the award winning movie, Jesus Camp, which showed young children being trained to do battle for the Lord.

At least three of four of Palin’s churches are involved with major organizations and leaders of this movement, which is referred to as The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit or the New Apostolic Reformation. The movement is training a young “Joel’s Army” to take dominion over the United States and the world.

Video Clips (note that all video clips are taken from original sources or sources promoting and supporting the Third Wave/New Apostolic Reformation):

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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