Buying my regular hot Bratwurst with mild mustard at the Melbourne’s Vic Market last Saturday morning. Who should be ordering next to me but one Malcolm Turnbull and wife Lucy. Malcolm looked a little confused by all the choice and was pointing and umming and arring — Lucy quickly and perkily jumped in clarifying his order and after a quick exchange with me on the merits of Sauerkraut decided on just a sausage and mustard in a roll.

It was consistent with the sort of collective madness that descended on Parliament yesterday that Malcolm Turnbull’s senior press adviser, the generously-proportioned Tony Barry, had a physical altercation with the Ten Network’s bureau head Stephen Spencer yesterday morning. The incident received extended coverage in other press but if you saw last night’s political piece by Paul Bongiorno, who demanded Barry leave the Ten offices and complained to Turnbull, you would have suspected nothing — it was the usual professional and incisive take from Bongiorno on the day’s events.

The only mystery is why Barry was apparently so upset by an article by Sue Dunlevy  (Spencer’s partner) on private health insurance, where she made the unarguable point that if private health insurance was a half-decent product it wouldn’t need such an extensive range of government sticks and subsidies to support it.

Leightons’ Aussie Embassy project in Phnom Penh is weeks past completion date thanks to a series of c-ckups. Word is that project manager is for the chop unless the place is handed over on Sunday. Liquidated damages at $2000 a day currently. The building itself looks OK, a big alucobond box, with timber coloured louvers at each end but cheap and nasty looking ancillary buildings spoil it. Most remarkable safety record, over a year in the making and nil lost time injuries according to the sign outside. Pull the other one Leightons, its got bells on.

Re. Marinergate 1. Someone should ask the NSW Government how much money they paid Sydney FC for sponsorship of their Asian Champions League campaign (where they fared much better!). My mail is that it was closer to $50k, and nowhere near the $200k that the Mariners got.

Re. Marinergate 2. It is exactly one year to the day that Belinda Neal and Sophie Mirabella had their famous little stoush in the Main Committee Room. And Phillip Coorey reported in the SMH today that Julia Irwin’s preselection is understood to be at risk in Fowler. A bit of a peculiar thing to say considering she’s running around telling everyone who will listen that she’s definitely not running again.

Check out the site of Alexander Downer’s lobbying firmBespoke Approach“. The blurb on community contribution begins: “With power comes responsibility.” Then: “So it is not surprising that after long careers serving their communities with distinction, the partners of Bespoke Approach should continue to look for ways in which they may personally contribute to the better good.” Wow — these guys aren’t cynical influence peddlers, they’re community heroes — powerful ones though, with responsibilities. What a pack of w-nkers!

Former NSW Premier Morris Iemma is set to start his own consultancy giving economic, political and government advice to Australian and overseas clients. His co-partner is “Winky” Chow who worked for him in the Premier’s Department as one of his private secretaries. More recently she has been a policy adviser in Premiers but has quit to join Iemma in his post-political career. “Winky” is the daughter of an immensely wealthy Chinese tycoon whose contacts in the People’s Republic will be helpful in creating business opportunities.

As a Pyrmont resident and fan of the Light Rail, I was very pleased to be invited to participate and share my views in some market research regarding the NSW Government’s planned Metro. The research, conducted by Taverner’s Research is being conducted this week at the Broadway shopping centre, and I would get $40 for my trouble. As the research was for the NSW Government, I was keen for the chance to have my say regarding spending a bomb on cash that the Government doesn’t have on a system when a cheaper, alternative could be running in two years…

Turned up last night and was presented with a number of scenarios comparing the Light Rail with the Metro, and then I had to chose the preferred one for me. Of the ten scenarios presented, each one had me choose between a more expensive and more crowded and less frequent Light Rail or a cheaper, emptier, frequent Metro. For example (from memory):

Q1: Would you prefer the Light rail if it was $5.85, ran every 60 minutes and had 100% seating capacity with 20% standing capacity, or would you prefer a Metro that is $3.20, ran every 6 minutes, and was at 40% seating capacity?

Q2: Would you prefer the Light rail if it was $4.90, ran every 45 minutes and had 100% seating capacity with 50% standing capacity, or would you prefer a Metro that is $2.80, ran every 9 minutes, and was at 60% seating capacity?

I said to the guy asking the questions: “but I’ve never waited more than 10 minutes for a Light Rail! And what if I wanted to walk?” he just shrugged his shoulders and told me to pick one of the two options…

Any day now we’re going to hear from David Campbell how the NSW Government has consulted the people (with “independent” market research) and the people have demanded a Metro … what tosh! How can this “independent” research be credible when it is so skewed in the favour of what the Government wants to hear?

There is a very strong rumour that the Sydney Morning Herald made a loss in April … and that the higher-paid staff are going to be called in one by one and asked to take a pay cut.

I hear News Ltd’s The Mercury (Hobart’s daily) wants to shed 40 editorial positions. If not enough volunteers sign up I hear some will be forced. I got this second-hand. Over to you and SackWatch.

Andrew Jaspan, former editor of The Age, has sold his house in Park Street, St Kilda West. Circa $2.5m, we hear.

Despite Ausenco’s stated optimism, professional staff are still being laid off. The planned capital raising is more about trying to get rid of debts accrued with its hasty acquisitions of last year, rather than any planned growth in the future.

Here’s another ALP Councillor to add to your list. On Manningham Council, Cr Charles Pick used to work as a press secretary for ALP left co-convenor Brian Tee (upper house Eastern Metro). However, he quit the role when he was elected Mayor of Manningham last November. But Cr Pick is still working two days a week at ALP head office in a membership role which is, at this point, an ill-defined situation under the proposed amendments to the Local Government Act. Meanwhile, Pick and Tee still appear to be good buddies.

Peter Fray

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