Early election? Of course we are having an early election. Out Penrith way, local pretty-young-thing MP David Bradbury has big new banners up with the virtues of the Rudd Government and a photo of himself. Although next time around I may vote for someone who has reached puberty! Bradbury looks 12-years-old.

Apropos PM’s staffers and their gadgets… I was on a Sydney-Canberra flight earlier this year, and a young economics adviser had his laptop going well after the general announcement to shut down had been issued, and after he’d been politely asked to turn his computer off. I tapped him on the shoulder and suggested he use a paper and pencil for a short while – not wanting to die for the sake of some IMF briefing or other that he was hurriedly confecting. He turned his mobile back on as soon as we landed. Our taxes in action.

In the wake of Bob Debus’ shock announcement that he will retire at the end of the term, jostling for the traditionally left-wing seat of Macquarie is running at fever pitch. Determined to stay ahead of the pack is Sydney barrister and part-time Blue Mountains Mayor Adam Searle, who is careful to portray himself as a left-winger — at least when briefing the media. What then to make of news that former MP Gary Punch is promising right wing powerbrokers that if Searle is endorsed for the seat, he will defect to the right the instant he enters Parliament?

As we approach the end of June and July, the Liberal-National Party (LNP) are currently conducting their AGMs and annual senior Party Convention. This year will confirm the former Nationals influence on the Party. Information can be provided on two important upcoming AGMs.

  1. The Brisbane Central Zone Chairmanship. One of the few former Liberal Party strongholds left in the Party is set to be taken by former Liberal Party Vice President Bob Harper. Recently, rumours have surfaced that Harper who has been closely working with former Nationals Tamara Foong (former candidate for Mt Ommaney) and David Goodwin (YLNP powerbroker) have stacked more than 150 members into the Mt Coo-tha Senior Branch in readiness for upcoming AGM. In addition more than 50 members aligned to David Goodwin have joined the Indooroopilly YLNP branch. Harper’s run is seen as “treacherous” by many former Liberal Party members who had supported him so strongly for VP at last year’s Liberal Party Convention before the merger. Harper who promised to fight the merger full-on is now seen as a “turncoat” in advance of his own political interests. Harper is now considered to be a “Nat” among many in the Party.
  2. Annual Convention. The LNP branches have been busily elected delegates to the 2009 Convention. Despite this, it is rumoured that the turnout will be extremely low. The LNP Secretariat has decided the registration fee for the Conference itself, not including dinners and special events, will be $175. The former Nationals and current President Bruce McIver are set to takeover the Party completely through a loophole in the Party’s Constitution. Under the Party’s constitution, any member living 300km or more from the location of Convention will be able to elect Party officials via proxies. This will mean that those in regional areas will be able to exercise their vote at Convention without paying the $175 registration fee. The fact that many former Liberals are from the urban centre of Brisbane, it is unlikely that many of these people will be exercising their vote if they have to pay the amount of money required to attend. As a result, Gary Spence (former Liberal Party president) is set to lose the Vice-Presidency of the Party.

With the strong possibility that the Nationals will takeover the Brisbane Central Zone, Convention and various other areas of Queensland, the number of former Liberals in Executive positions will most likely be dwindled down to a handful: Roderick Schneider (Young LNP President) , Melina Morgan (Women’s President), Gary Hargrave (Brisbane South Region) and Warren Entsch (Far North QLD Region). Even these positions (but for Schneider who was elected unopposed in May) are under threat in the next month.

I just heard on the grapevine that the major employer in Tarree, NSW is closing up shop. The company manufactures mirrors and other components for the automotive industry. This is going to hit this small town very hard.

Coles on Walkleys Road, Ingle Farm, Adelaide, last night took delivery of a new product line — “Dust and Cleaning Masks”. Funny how much they look like Swine Flu masks … oh, and the label advertises that they are suitable for a pandemic.

At the X|medialab conference in Sydney last Friday Courtney Gibson’s Opening Address featured a defiant defence of Amanda Duthie (who of course was “demoted” after the Chaser incident). Some wondered whether a more defiant defence within the ABC would have been more appropriate. Others wondered whether the right person got fingered.

You might have done some checking before writing such silly nonsense about Indonesian fishermen. First, these blokes sometimes fish in Australian waters because they have almost completely fished out theirs. Would you have them just continue until every fish is caught? Second, Indonesian fishermen caught in Australian waters are not detained unless they are repeat offenders. They are returned home as soon as possible. Third, emotive phases such as we are “stealing” their waters are hardly accurate.

Indonesia also agreed to sign the UN Convention on the law of the sea years ago, and does the fact their fishermen fished where they liked for whatever they wanted really count today. Do you think cutting fins off live sharks, as many did and still do, is still OK? Is fishing for dugong to the point of extinction fine? How about chucking grenades over the side?

I could go on, but what alternatives do you suggest? Easy to have a bash at the border enforcement people but without some patrolling and enforcement our waters would be as ravaged as theirs…

Qantas makes contractors feel the pain. Qantas has changed its payment practices to its army of contractors and is now paying those invoices received from contractors on 90 day terms — not from receipt but from a specified monthly date. This means that some contractors are forced to pay suppliers either cash on receipt or the usual seven or 14 terms and wait up in many cases in excess of 100 days for payment from the cash strapped airline.

Qantas insiders report that some contractors are refusing to accept these terms after requiring bridging finance to facilitate payment for supplies. Recovery or money grab? Westpac fixed interest rates to rise a staggering .5% on Tuesday — get in quick while you can!

While the recent Jetstar cockpit window fire probably could have happened on any airline, if not on any aircraft model, it does invite scrutiny of safety issues at low cost carriers. I thought I was dreaming on Wednesday last week, on a Jetstar Asia flight from Hong Kong to Singapore, when about two hours into the flight the pilot came over the PA with a three minute infomercial for a shampoo product for damaged hair. I was trying to sleep and had my eyes closed, hence my suspicion that it was a dream, or possibly a scene from The Truman Show that had bubbled up into my semi-conscious brain.

According to the pilot’s enthusiastic spruiking, the infomercial was being accompanied by cabin service staff in the aisles showing how to apply the shampoo — I guess using similar hand movements to the ones used to demonstrate application of the oxygen mask. But as I say, my eyes were closed, and to be honest, I was fearful of opening them. I know it can get boring up there in the cockpit, but does Jetstar really want to create the impression that pilots have got better things to do with their time than actually fly the plane and keep a lookout?

Are highly invasive and somewhat bizarre infomercials from the cockpit crew now a constant feature of Jetstar flights, or was I the subject of a controlled experiment?

After inspecting a property and making a $1.15 million offer for a home with no listed sale price in Sydney’s lower north shore I tried unsuccessfully to get a firm sale price from the agent. Time and time again I highlighted the fact that my offer was negotiable — but I did not intend to increase my offer unless a sale price was stated — I had already increased my original offer by $150k. Just 24 hours after I again asked for counter offer the property is then sold and the agent rings me two days after that.

The sale price was $1.21 million to someone who had offered $1.2million at the same time I offered $1.15. I found out later that in order to “hurry things along” the agent reported to the vendor that I was offering $1.15 million and no more therefore he should accept just more than $1.2 million.

Result — one happy agent courtesy of a nice quick sale, one blissfully unaware vendor (age 85) just screwed for at least $40k and a whole lot of my time wasted. Agent 1, vendor 0.

The NSW International Student sector has been under siege by the regulator, NSW VETAB, for years. Now the natives are getting restless. An industry insider has started a blog “VETAB outrage” which invites contributions from industry stakeholders. It makes very interesting reading. As an industry insider myself, I can confirm the accuracy of all blog entries. Makes you wonder what the minister is doing.

Peter Fray

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