Courier Mail employees were evacuated when someone in the office performed a prank on fellow colleague Michael Krutcher’s desk, by putting sugar all over his desk to emulate cocaine, after his recent reports on the “Drugs scourge” in Queensland. The stories were not taken seriously in the newsroom, and it was thought that the journalist would see the humour in it.

Fagan, knowing it was sugar (journalists tasted the hitherto unidentified substance) called the police and the building was evacuated to scare the person who did it into coming forward. All the while journalists were saying it’s a joke, someone in the office did it, the police arrived and cleared the desk, leaving journos outside for half an hour.

Fagan then sent emails demanding who put the sugar on the desk, followed by threats. Fagan who has banned the Crikey website from Courier Mail computers is trying to find any potential leak to Crikey — and prevented anyone from talking about the incident.

The Rudd Government’s budget process is a shambles on a scale not seen before in Canberra. Central agencies have not been given their budget allocations for 2009/10 with only a few weeks to the Budget. The Finance Department has now issued multiple versions of templates for the Budget papers, which are continually altered, with more changes still to come.

Agencies have been asked this year to report in a new way on their outcomes and programs, with minimal guidance from Finance on how to achieve this. It’s all academic anyway as there is no indication out of the Strategic Priorities Budget Committee as to what funding agencies can expect for 2009/10. One gets the sense the Government is in a state approaching panic.

Crikey’s Bernard Keane writes: Sounds like the usual budget process to me, actually.

Bob Debus’s staffers in the seat of Macquarie are frantically running around the electorate looking for a suitable candidate to take Bob’s place in the next Federal election. Old Bob, who is calling it quits after what seems like a hundred years in politics, is intent on finding his replacement and not leaving that important job to the rabble of the local branches.

Also, Minister Debus has gone cool on the idea of Sharan Burrow being the next MP for Macquarie. It can’t be because she doesn’t live in the electorate. Neither does Bob, who has lived in Balmain for the last 25 years!

Local community groups are being looked at for people with potential. Sadly, Bob’s record on recruitment isn’t so crash hot. His last recruit was Namoi Parry, who in the lead up to the last NSW State election embarrassed the party with her blog comments deriding then-Premier Morris Iemma. Miss Parry also recently got trounced in the local government election, losing the ward seat that Labor has always held in her home town of Katoomba.

One other worrying contender is serial stacker and Doug Cameron staffer Stuart McGill, who has “recruited” about 200 people to the ALP in the electorate in the past couple of years since his land development business hit the wall. Maybe Bob will stay there until his 70th birthday in five years.

New ACA Executive Producer Grant Williams did a fine impression of misogynistic Nine boss behaviour when he posted a headline on the door of the two senior female reporters that read “the boiler room”. Guffaws all round from some of the blokes, but horror from us younger ones.

The buzz around our work water-coolers is that the days of being editor are numbered for The Sunday Telegraph‘s Neil Breen. Any other editor who told the Pauline Hanson story with such gusto would be long gone, but why not this one?

Is there any reason why Triple M pulled the photos of the girls painted with footy jumpers?

Journos and production staff at the Gold Coast Bulletin have been told 23 (out of a 100) have to decide on voluntary redundancies by Monday, otherwise they will be forced to walk. And this from one of News’s best performers… Word is the Gold Coast Bulletin and free weekly Gold Coast Sun staff are being offered redundancies and the two newsrooms (currently in different buildings) are to be combined into one at the Bulletin office.

The subs desk will be joined. Staff being moved next month, but combined room effective from next week. Word too is that the ad reps (probably the most successful in all of News Ltd) are being asked to reapply for positions.

And meanwhile on the grassy knoll: Google Active Thermitic material found in the dust at WTC.

Peter Fray

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