What is a leak? Recent governments have thrown hundreds of millions at ATO “investigations” and the employment of additional investigative staff. Investigations are generally carried out by relatively junior field staff — APS 6 and below. Over the past five years their numbers have reduced by nearly 2%.

Meanwhile senior staff have increased by 20% at the EL1 and EL2 level and more than 17% at levels above EL2 or $120,000 plus a year salary. Senior managers in the latter category manage an average of 11 officers. Travel budgets are extraordinary at these senior levels. The use of modern means of communication such as computers, telephones and teleconferencing don’t rate when you can jet off around the continent.

What source do I reference? The last five ATO annual reports.

Ambitious, budget-funded, plans to create an integrated nationwide system of scholarships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids to attend urban private schools are facing difficulties and delays due to the refusal of one powerbroker to surrender his control over a smaller scheme based round his own northern fiefdom.

Announcements expected today on the rationalisation of News Limited tabloid sections across the major metro titles according to the plan hatched by News features boss Alan Oakley. Job losses tipped.

Be careful what you tell a mortgage broker. I recently bid for a properly at an auction in inner city Melbourne. Prior to the auction, I called a mortgage broker that a friend recommended. I told the mortgage broker about the property and I was advised by them that with the financing I could secure, I could easily bid up to $1.1 million for the property. The property sold for $1.07 million at auction and I dropped out of the bidding at $1.010 million.

A couple of days later, I spoke to the selling agent about the auction and was told that the successful bidder had “inside information” because her mortgage broker had told her that someone interested in the property had pre approval finance of $1.1million.

Alarm bells rang … I called the mortgage broker and he admitted that the winning bidder was his client. A very robust conversation followed.

Needless to say, I will not be using this mortgage broker again in the future.

I have a heard a very strong rumour from a friend at News Ltd that The Australian is looking to launch a weekly women’s magazine to be bundled with The Weekend Australian and The Weekend Australian Magazine (like Le Figaro does with Madame Figaro on Saturdays in France). They are currently scouting for an editor.

Which boutique WA winery has decided to sack four staff and have the label made under licence by a much larger (industrial, impersonal) winery?

TressCox Lawyers have made redundant “at least a dozen staff”, according to The New Lawyer and “Last week Minter Ellison made 35 employees redundant, including 11 lawyers and 24 support staff from its Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane offices. Thomson Playford Cutlers laid off 25 staff in December, while Blake Dawson cut 89 staff this year. Corrs Chambers Westgarth cut fewer than 50 staff, Deacons has cut about 45, and DLA Phillips Fox has laid off 20.”

I applied for, and eventually received, an Italian passport a few years ago through that embassy (I’m Australia born). The hours were the same back then, I was told no five times over 18 months on their reading of the law — which when I turned up with a lawyer suddenly became the reason why I did qualify, and the officer handling my case was “sick” for my final interview — so I had to do my best with my limited Italian, to prove I should get a passport. But for all that — it’s their country, and their rules. Che te dice la patria? As Hemingway said.

I happened to go through a similar process at the Greek Consulate in Melbourne a few years ago when applying for my Greek passport. The place was only available twice a week to call and make appointments, and there seemed to be only one computer in the entire building. They also constantly spoke Greek to you; even if you told them specifically you do not speak the language.

After almost two years of interview and appointments I was ready to leap the final hurdle. But alas, I was told by the consulate that the documents obtained at the start of the process were now over six months old and therefore ineligible to be used to acquire a passport. I was also shouted at by the staff for wasting THEIR time. I walked out the door right then and there, never to return.

I have citizenship, military exemption, but still, no passport.

From the grassy knoll: I’m living in China and often get my Crikey daily email blocked by my company firewall so I log onto your web site to get my daily dose of Crikey. I had to do this yesterday and when it came up with “network access message: page can not be displayed” my first thought was, have these guys upset the Chinese today.

I tried various ways with no luck until I got there via Google but as soon as I tried to open another page I got the no access message and was booted out. After few tries to get back in via Google I did so and found first dog looking like the suspect. It could be a coincidence but it is the first time I have not been able to access you on the web.

Someone may be watching you and they don’t get First Dog on the Moon’s jokes.

Peter Fray

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