I’m an Australian renewable energy consultant currently in Beijing. I was very interested to read your story about my local member, The Hon. Martin Ferguson. According to embassy staff in Beijing, Ferguson has already visited Beijing three times pushing his CCS-for-coal barrow, and the agenda of the federal department hasn’t changed one bit since the Howard government’s policies on CCS, uranium mining, and nuclear.

The Australian Embassy in Beijing has a representative from the Department of Energy, Tourism and Natural Resources stationed in Beijing working almost exclusively on CCS, with no counterpart working on renewables. Meanwhile, China has developed the “Solar Silicon Valley” just down the road. Jiangsu Province alone produced $A16 billion worth of solar panels in 2008, hardly a marginal industry. Currently, the GFC has produced a glut in the market making Chinese solar panels very cheap at present.

Rather than focusing exclusively on coal, and criticising Darebin Council, Minister Ferguson’s presence in China puts him in an ideal position to actually support the council’s Zero Emissions Plan by facilitating trade ties on renewable energy.

Someone in the ALP should point out to Ferguson that the Howard government policies on climate change were not popular with the community — perhaps he needs to spend less time at Chinese banquets and more time in Batman!

So now Defence is proposing to sell off a number of its bases, large and small, including Richmond in western Sydney. At last the “reform program” is starting to make sense. If you don’t have any soldiers, sailors or airmen to defend the country because you have pissed them all off, then why have bases? So very logical, bean-counters!

Your story on the independent contractors sham included comment on Australian Building and Construction Commission head John Lloyd. Why the Rudd government continues to employ this man is beyond me. In Western Australia, he headed the agency that, in the ’90s, introduced workplace agreements on behalf of notorious minister Kierath and brought down living standards for thousands of workers, all in the name of workplace flexibility.

Lloyd fled Western Australia the day before the Gallop Labor Government took office. Now he pretends to apply the law even-handedly while continuing to beat unions and their members about the head and protecting employers. He was, incidentally, known as Lurch to his unfortunate staff in the WA Government. Lurch was the Boris Karloff lookalike in the Addams Family.

Ergon Energy, the regional electricity supplier covering 97% of Queensland, is actively de-engineering its business following the appointment of CE Ian McLeod, a non-engineer who did not complete his degree, and the subsequent appointment several his non-engineering mates from Powercorp in Victoria to senior managerial levels.

In the past six months, some seven highly qualified and very experienced engineers and engineering managers have departed the organisation and more are expected to follow as the 41 redundancy notices take effect.

One newly appointed executive from Powercorp, with only a linesman certificate for qualification, is now in charge of all the engineers and para-professional in their transmission services division. Staff are not happy with this decline in engineering expertise in what is fundamentally a poles and wires business requiring significant engineering effort.

Here’s the latest instalment from the weird and whacky world of a TV news exec. The TV exec split from the wife of his children for a much younger — and less qualified — work-experience student. Now the Melbourne-based exec is suffering from yet another embarrassing moment.

Said exec turned up to a recent fashion event with his young muse in tow. His star male reporter also attended and took his suitably aged wife. But little did star reporter’s wife know the background tale. She later remarked: “How nice it was of him [news exec] to bring his daughter to this event.”

Now that’s a serious case of foot-in-mouth disease.

The Oz should think again about its slogan. This bears a slight (read: total) resemblance to The Australian‘s new slogan, no? The Atlantic‘s campaign has been running for at least a year, as far as I know, so I suspect The Oz is copying, and not the other way around. Why. Think. Again. when you can just copy?

We had a phone call today from a sales representative from 2UE today telling us that several 2GB personalities would be making the switch across to their radio station in the new year. She was specific with names and said that negotiations were under way and asked us if we’d be interested in shifting our advertising. We’re agreed to have a meeting so I’ll let you know what happens.

Also 3AW is chasing with super discounted rates anyone on Eddie McGuire’s show. We’ve just started advertising there, too, and they are offering us less than half what we used to pay to come back. Strange days indeed!

Even hardened members of the theatre community well used to the boys’ club of the Sydney theatre scene were taken aback at the launch of the much anticipated swansong from outgoing artistic director Neil Armfield at Belvoir on Monday night.

As production after production was announced and their creators called to join Neil on stage, the row of young male lookalike writers and directors fawning over Belvoir’s incumbent grew. It is hard to know who was more embarrassed — the single token female Lee Lewis sitting resplendent in white among the sea of black-clad masculinity, or the audience, immediately and significantly more aware of the company’s gender problem than, it seems, any of those at Company B who put the 2010 season together.

The fact that the majority of those on stage also served on the company’s programming committee only reinforced the accurate image that Belvoir is a closed male shop — a more sterling example of jobs for the boys is hard to imagine. Armfield’s late elegy to the list of all female managers who have done his paperwork over the years was in stark and telling relief to the male visions they have been charged to realise.

All hale Sydney theatre in the 21st Century! Next up, Sydney Theatre Company’s launch on Friday. Will Blanchett and Upton serve the sisterhood any better? They sure as hell couldn’t do worse than the disgraceful team of patriarchs at Company B.

Just a another slant on your “funeral industry requesting regulation” comment. I’m a funeral director of 40 years’ experience. My opinion is that only slight regulation is needed for the funeral industry, just a couple of non-negotiables. Regulation that excludes limited service providers, discounters or smaller operators is ridiculous and limits consumer choice, no government would or should support this.

What needs to be regulated is the “non-negotiable” standards for professionally transferring (moving) the deceased and professional mortuary facilities (storage facilities) to ensure hygienic working conditions for staff. Even the simplest or smallest operators within the funeral industry need to offer their staff and families  these two basics of service and care.

A funeral director should have a mortuary that meets some sort of minimal standard.

Timely given Sydney’s red dawn: There’s an email floating around containing a mathematical formula to compute the time between a particular weather phenomenon first being reported and someone in the media blaming the phenomenon on climate change. m = ([200 – y] / w) – d. m = number of minutes between phenomenon being reported and climate change being blamed by someone in the media:

y = unusualness/unseasonality of the event (1 = usual; 50 = highly unusual)

w = prominence of any world climate meetings going on at the time of the event (1 = not prominent; 5 = very prominent international meeting)

d = days since the last climate change media release by a federal Greens MP if m is negative, round up to 10 minutes.

This model predicted that the first story today linking climate change and the red dawn would hit at 8:41am EST. It arrived a little early, at 8:36am.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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