On Friday, excavation began on a primary school basketball court in Anna Bligh’s electorate. A rather large metal sign out front proclaimed that this was a proud initiative of the Queensland government. Come this morning, the Queensland government logo has been covered with black tape and one of the infamous federal government signs has appeared on high.

It’s not only the legal eagles in Defence that can’t pay their Reserves — this is only the tip of the iceberg! ARTS (or Army Reserve Training Salaries in full), were cut by 40% at the start of the new financial year. To hear that some areas have been cut by 50% or more comes as no surprise, as the zealots on Russell Hill, uniformed and civilian, continue banging on and on and on about “reform” and saving $10 billion over the next 10 years. Blah blah blah. We’ve heard it all before, as well as the “strategic reorganisations” that occur about every 18 months in groups such as DSG.

What they don’t seem to realise is that by cutting Reserve salaries they are losing the critical expertise provided by many experienced Reserve personnel, particularly officers with hard-earned staff experience who do a lot of project work on a part-time basis. Capital equipment procurement projects are one area that springs to mind. Doctrine development and training analysis are others. One day soon the penny will drop when the Regular staff and APS project officers start to crumble under unrealistic workloads.

It reminds me of ducks on a pond — all running smoothly on the surface but panic stations beneath. Wake up, Defence — either dump the work you can’t really do, or shell out the shekels for the people who can help you.

No one objects to genuine efforts to make Defence more efficient and effective, but stop preaching about “look what we’ve saved, minister” when the net effect is more stress for those who remain …

Concerned staff have called in health department chiefs to intervene after a Canberra-based bureaucrat recently diagnosed with a degenerative neurological illness was abruptly shown the door by agency management. Barely able to walk, the worker has been struck off the federal government’s payroll at the direction of the CEO and had their desk cleared out by management. “If you can’t work, we can’t pay you” seems a rather heartless attitude in the trenches of Kevin07 land.

The KPMG and Group 100Managing Financial Impacts and Reporting of Carbon Emissions A guide for CFOs — Australian publication, has pictures of nuclear power plants, one was below a sub-heading about sustainability reporting and assurance. Quite amusing. We don’t have nuclear power plants in Australia.

Last week’s contributor was on the mark about the Myer float and the sudden departure of Bill Wavish from the brand’s chairmanship. Anyone who has followed the brand since TPG took control 39 months ago will know that Wavish has repeatedly and steadfastly maintained that the brand would not be taken to market until the completion of their 50-month turnaround program, 11 months from now. Could it be that he fought the TPG-dominated board and lost, resulting in his early departure? He is still set to reap millions, although was moved aside just before the float announcement.

I’ve just heard from an employee of MINDA in Adelaide that they are about to strike over a wage dispute. The outcome of the strike will mean that many mentally handicapped people will be unsupervised and uncared for over the duration of the strike. The employee confided that MINDA was seeking a wage cut of 30%. MINDA currently enforce its seven-week annual leave allowance to be taken within the 12-month period. If the seven weeks isn’t taken, the employees are apparently marched into the manager’s office for a “please explain” as it apparently “messes with the budget”.

More votes in gas than aged care? Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot, who makes no apologies for continually slamming the aged-care industry, has yet to appear at any of not-for-profit peak group Aged and Community Services Australia’s national conferences. Last year she pulled out of one less than 24 hours before appearing, a tradition she has established for many other industry appearances.

This year, she sent her regrets well in advance to the 2009 conference in Perth, claiming her presence was required in Parliament. This displeased some delegates who asked the guest speaker, Michael Kirby, how they could stir up political interest in ageing, if the minister herself couldn’t be bothered to attend. Kirby defended the minister, claiming that the wonderful Westminster system meant Parliament was too important to miss.

This logic escaped Marn Fersun, the Energy Minister, who was seated outside the conference at the time, prompting some to wonder if he was a last-minute replacement. He was in fact, readying himself for the Perth press pack to announce the Gorgon gas deal. Obviously more votes in gas than aged care. Not that Justine was completely absent: she sent a brief video during which she recalled all the inquiries held, challenges faced, and difficult decisions not yet made, by the Rudd government in health and ageing.

Her presentation bemused the 1000 delegates who forgot to clap, which spooked the next international speaker into hoping that the silence did not extend to her. She received an immediate ovation to assure her that this was not so.

From the Crikey Sightings desk:

Seen last night at Portia’s in Kingston, ACT. Brian Loughnane and Tony Abbott in a looooong and earnest conversation over duck pancakes and shantung lamb! We wondered at first how Tony could afford such a long dinner break on a sitting night and then came home to read the news about him being kicked out of the House for 24 hours. My grandma — visiting from Perth and certainly no political junkie — leaned over to me and loudly said as Abbott arrived … “look, isn’t that Brendan Nelson?”. Gold.