There are already rumblings in central Australia about the proposed new deal on developing remote Aboriginal townships, but for reasons other than its supposed assault on outstations. Fingers are being pointed at Indigenous policy minister, Alison Anderson, and the apparent favouring of her home town of Papunya. The question being asked is why Papunya is favoured, when the town of Lyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) has been completely ignored.

According to Grants Commission population estimates on the Northern Territory Government’s official “Bush Telegraph” website, Papunya has a population of 342. Mysteriously, and uniquely for such a large place, the population for Lyentye Apurte is missing from the government web site. Estimates are that the town’s population is between 550-600 — getting on towards twice the size of the minister’s home base. Given that the new “growth towns” will receive government largesse, hundreds of people will miss out.

The editor of The Australian, Chris Mitchell, has finally bitten the bullet to solve a long running and bitter dispute between two of his most senior journalists, Nicolas Rothwell and Paul Toohey. Relations between the two men collapsed last year after Toohey was appointed chief of the Darwin bureau. Another staff member, Natasha Robison, asked to return to Sydney after less than a year because, she told editors in Sydney, she could not work with Toohey.

The problem between Rothwell and Toohey came to a head this week when Toohey was scooped by The Age on the release of the NT’s homelands policy. As Crikey has reported, Toohey refused a government briefing, accusing the NT’s Indigenous Affairs Minister Alison Anderson of earlier briefing The Age. Anderson and Rothwell are partners. In fact, Toohey jumped to the wrong conclusion. The Age was not briefed by Anderson. The newspaper got its story from other sources, as Crikey has reported.

Mitchell has now asked Toohey to pack up and become The Australian‘s Jakarta correspondent. It will be a big step out into the real world for the well connected son of former NT and High Court judge John Toohey, who has only ever worked as a daily newspaperman in the NT and Perth.

Chris Mitchell, Editor-in-chief of The Australian, responds: I have never asked Paul to go to Jakarta or anywhere else. He asked the editor, who is Paul Whittaker, if he could be considered for a posting at some point. He will go later this year, succeeding the present correspondent who will return to Sydney as scheduled. Hard to imagine some long running dispute between Paul and Nicolas given Paul only returned to The Oz from The Bulletin 17 months ago and that Paul’s approach to me about returning was made through Nicolas.

Australia Post announced to staff the 21st of May that it was aiming to close its Sydney Call Centre by January 2010. Not clear on how many roles this will impact. I understand some jobs will be repatriated to Newcastle rather than offshore.

I along with six senior managers were retrenched from ING Australia at the end of 2008, and a month later (in January) ING announced it would cut 7000 positions globally. Since my departure, dozens of positions have been made redundant, and ING is seriously examining sending jobs offshore to India. The outsourcing push is being led by COO, Fred Bertram who previously ran ANZ’s 2000-strong outsourced back office function in Bangalore. He took management over there to check out the site for a potential call centre.

An area not considered are the sub-contractors that do not appear on the employment lists. My contacts in the Pay TV installation group are looking at eating grass to get by. In boom times, four installs a day paid for vehicle and business insurance, registration, living expenses etc made for a healthy wage. Now, looking at barely three install a week plus a few service calls barely pays for the prerequisites. Expect a deluge of ex-subbies who will introduce themselves at Centrelink. BTW — Foxtel’s ad on TV for “Happy EOFYS” sounds like “Happy Oedipus”.

So Tony Hance collected a redundancy before a company fell over. Whoppidee doo. He won’t be the first — or the last. It has become all the rage to see the writing on the wall, arrange a redundancy (preferably along with an early termination payout for your contract), collect your entitlements tax effectively and then consult back until your former employer topples over. It helps avoid all those nasty DOCA/VA/ liquidation issues and not getting your full entitlements. If Crikey ran a make believe redundancy counter, it would be far higher than SackWatch…

As you’ve probably heard by now, all the volunteers from AYAD, VIDA and AVI (funded through AusAID) who took a year or more off their professional jobs here to volunteer their time in Asia and the Pacific missed out on the stimulus package — because we didn’t earn enough in the financial year. Of course, not all volunteers who’ve served in these programs are affected — just those of us who were unlucky enough to be sent in intakes that covered most of that financial year.

We all assumed this was an oversight — after all if backpackers qualified by the money, surely Australians who were off working to “promote Australia’s interests in the region” couldn’t be left off the list. It was a particularly bitter blow because most of us are now struggling financially after a year out of the paid workforce.

However a letter to my local Labor MP (who also happens to be a Minister) came back with a long-winded letter talking about the cash bonuses to the “people and families who are doing it the toughest” (apparently we don’t count because most of us aren’t getting Centrelink benefits, just struggling along trying to pay the bills) followed by some waffle about how “enormously proud” the Government are of us (after all how many of them would forgo their salary for a year to volunteer?) then the statement that “there’s no scope to reconsider the criteria”.

I particularly appreciated the line “the most effective fiscal policy measures are those that are timely and targeted to those who are most likely to spend additional income” because of course having spent a year out of the workforce there wouldn’t be anything we could possibly need.

It’s nice to know just how much the Government really valued our contribution — phrases like “the Australian Government is enormously proud of the work that our volunteers do” won’t cover the rent or put food on the table. Please Crikey help us out by publishing something – there’s less than 1000 of us affected and some support from you could make all the difference.

I don’t like to beg, but financially there’s quite a few of us who are in very tight circumstances and could really use the extra help.

I registered to receive one of my three Optus bills online, to avoid the $2.20 paper bill fee. I protested, but Optus weren’t keen on receiving a bill from me for the administrative costs associated with registering and paying my bills online. Nothing said (yet) about the other two services.

Imagine my surprise when I received my first online bill today, complete with a $2.20 fee for a paper bill. The overseas call centre operator obtained her supervisor’s permission to “waive” the $2.20 fee, and I was chided for not “deactivating” the paper bill option. Nothing from Optus told me I needed to do this in addition to registering for online billing.

The usual point applies — this error, multiplied by a few million customers, equals a tidy sum for Optus. I suggest everyone checks their Optus bills carefully.

My parents flew back to Perth from Melbourne last week with Virgin Blue and unknown to them their flight had been rescheduled so they missed their flight out. They had to wait for seven hours for the next flight as well as pay $100 as a fee for missing their rescheduled flight. Virgin Blue claims they contacted the travel agency in Perth to advise them of the change — the travel agency claims no one contacted them or advised them of the change.

Are we heading back to the old days when you need to confirm your flight 24 hours before you turn up to the airport? When you get your itinerary it states “confirmed”. I can accept that if a flight is rescheduled stuff happens (as did my parents) but to then charge someone seems a bit rough. Unfortunately, my parents aren’t the sort to make a fuss.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey