Defence has spent $50,000 to publish a book of publicly-available declassified defence documents, as reported here. Middle managers in the Defence Department have recently received a free copy of the large, hard-copy volume. Poor taxpayer.

The GFC has hit the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department too. The two receptionists who have served the Department for 46 years between them are to be retrenched on the move to the Death Star (i.e. the new AGD office across the road) in a week’s time. Branch Heads are being told to make savings where they can, staff going on maternity leave aren’t being replaced, and Directors are being told to justify their current staffing strength or lose staff members.

In response to Stephen Mayne’s schools story, a friend of mine who works at a state school in Melbourne was told that the principal received a letter from the Government telling the school that because of the amount of work being done and the speed with which it was being done, the Government cannot guarantee the quality any of the work. Are our schools going to end up with dangerous, second rate facilities?

NSW health does it again. The accident and emergency department of the Bowral District Hospital (the only public hospital) in the southern highlands cannot staff itself with doctors. On several nights the accident and emergency department has not had a doctor BUT the ambulances are obliged to take patients to the nearest hospital — and if they arrive when the hospital has no staff are met by the nursing staff who basically have to fend for themselves.

If asked what’s going on the “administration” has been claiming that there are doctors in other parts of the hospital — in reality the Bowral Hospital does not have ANY resident doctors at all — they only have on-call VMO’s who are already at breaking point.

I attended a talk convened by the Communications and Media Law Association last night, with special guest speaker the Minister for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy. Out of deference to my employer I’d rather not leave my real name. Most of the 25 minute talk was pure, and unsurprising, promotion of the government’s vision for a broadband economy, including the push to engender more business and punter confidence in the interweb, sprinkled with the odd attempt at levity by referencing Fake Stephen Conroy.

Significantly, Senator Conroy did make brief reference on a few occasions to the 500 pound elephant in the corner of the room — the Government’s filter plans. He described the issue as essentially a “debate at the margins”, and something that, for him, has been a distraction from the main game for the last 12 months. He did not go on to set out what that main game was, but noted that (i) people get very passionate when this issue is raised; and (ii) the government is basing it’s approach on principles. He did not set out what those principles were.

Since when did a debate about freedom of speech become a marginal concern?

After taking a small number of bland questions from the assembled professionals (some verging on Dorothy Dixers), he finished the speech by jokingly thanking the group for not asking any questions about filtering.

Peter Fray

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