Would someone like to draw attention to Melbourne Water and the Victorian Government’s water “tax grab”? Melbourne water has recently sent bills to 160,000 near-Melbourne rural properties, many of whom are not connected to any reticulated water, drainage or sewerage service. It is called a “waterway service” charge, yet much of the money goes to MW’s operating expenses, and are totally unrelated to capital works on waterways. They are raising about $197million in charges in 2008/09 —and expending $17m in capital works on all waterways. Even better —the government gave MW responsibility for rural waterways in 2005 by reclassifying parts of rural victoria as “metropolitan” under the MMBW Act — although this little feat was never advertised (see Government Gazette Notice 18 Nov 2005). The Minister can now change MWs area of responsibility by just changing the lines on a map. I am sure this will be one way in which all Victorian will be asked to foot the multi $$Billion bill for the pipeline and desal plant!

Yesterday one of the traffic workers on the Sugarloaf Pipeline in Victoria was hit by a car driven by one of the protesters. It was a hit and run and the police are investigating. I am disappointed that the media always go after the pipeline (despite Melbourne being in desperate need of water) and support the protestors but no one talks about how they go about protesting. A local MP who should know better also added a “dob in a pipeline worker” to her community newsletter — essentially putting the workers at risk. She is happy to front the cameras to hold the pipeline accountable, but where is her responsibility? She is a Public Servant. Everyone should be free to protest; but running people over and targeting workers is not all OK.

Over 12 months ago, as Freehills were battling to get a notes issue over the line for ABC, the major law firm was fretting over one important detail – without the cash from the issue, ABC were well and truly insolvent.

For a fair indication of how the economy is hitting broadcast TV take a look at the regional networks. On Wednesday night Nine in northern NSW in prime time had two to three minute ad breaks featuring two minutes of promos and community service announcements. The other ads in prime time were government ads. The effect on revenue must be devastating.

I have seen in email circulation a copy of a letter purportedly from Paul Keating to John Robertson, former Unions NSW boss, in which amongst other gems Keating describes Robertson “..like a banshee on a rampage, you tore at the Government’s entrails until its viability was effectively compromised”. It was cc’ed to Costa, Iemma, Riordan and Bitar.

There was a farewell dinner for two long time Age racing writers who have just retired. Stephen Howell 22 years and Tony Bourke former chief racing writer, 43 years. yes 43 years. There was 13 people at the dinner. On the night the Age paid the bill but two days later each couple got a bill from the Age.

The mantra in Corporate Affairs at Westfield is exactly the same as that Public Relations Officer position in Crikey’s Thursday editorial. To keep the Lowys out of the media, that is how they’re judged. I’d suggest you ask them if there was a chance they’d answer honestly. Not much word on that pesky offshore tax story lately? They’re good…

The carnage in the legal market continues: Minter Ellison have decided on a freeze on the admission new partners for at least 12 months, but probably 24. Corrs Brisbane have offered their lawyers 80% pay if the depart on 12 months leave forthwith. Cheaper to have them on that leave that make them redundant and then hire new ones when the market picks up Allens Brisbane have done the Ebeneezer and cancelled their Christmas party! The big project teams that have been living off the fat of multiple M&A deals and floats are floundering.

Just read the Wesfarmers Chairman’s and MD’s address to the AGM. Interesting! Particularly noted the absolute crock mentioned about how the WES team moved in to take over Coles, identified savings and now Terry Bowen and Jeff Wilson are still in place working effectively — what a crock! The WES team took over and didn’t even know how many people worked at Coles, who did what and how much they were paid. They removed a few execs, kept most of the dud GMs. Officeworks, now run by the Bunnings “boys” has totally dropped the ball. I’ve witnessed some management stuff ups before (Coles was pretty good at them) but Wesfarmers seem to have an uncanny knack for getting rid of the good people and promoting the dumbest morons in the business. This place is hell to work at right now — unfortunately for me and others, we actually love this business.

Judging by media reports today, Julia Gillard succeeded in pacifying most backbenchers who had concerns about the IR bill due to be introduced the week after next. But not one particular MP, whose observations about the consultation process for the bill made their way to Crikey yesterday:

At the Federal Labor Caucus briefing today on the Fair Work Australia bill, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard showed Labor MPs a powerpoint presentation covering the specifics of the proposed IR system. When asked for a copy of the powerpoint presentation, Gillard refused to provide it. In fact, Gillard refused to provide any hard copy or soft copy information for Labor MPs to take away with them. Labor MPs will be given one opportunity to view the bill before it is introduced into Parliament.

Labor MPs will be allowed the view the bill for ten hours. This viewing has been likened to an open-casket funeral for the union movement — they can look at the remains but can’t do anything about it because Cabinet’s already made its mind up. Labor MPs can pay their respects but they can’t take the bill home with them. One has to ask, if the new system is so good — why is Gillard being so secretive about it?

Workplace Express (subscription required) reported last night that backbenchers would be given a look at the bill, but not a copy, on Monday week.

The answer to the ALP member’s question is of course that this is a control freak government that takes no chances about how it controls information, and that keeping it under wraps will keep the Coalition on the back foot when the bill is unveiled the week after next.

On the other hand it’s also rare for Ministers to give the whole of Caucus detailed briefings on even major bills. That Gillard did so demonstrates the sensitivity of the Government about maintaining Parliamentary unity on IR against what will probably be extensive union criticism.