How many touchy-feely bonding sessions can a Canberra public servant need a year? One? Two? How about three since January? One federal agency is the talk of the town after forking out $50,000 for a recent two night/three day sojourn at a luxury Southern Highlands resort for the entire staff.

Sessions featured aromatherapy massages to help team members “adjust” and “centre themselves”, and that’s on top of the gourmet food and high-end wine. Life must be pretty stressful for them, seeing they had already experienced a one day session at the exclusive Commonwealth Club in May and that followed their first one day session at the toffy Westin Sydney in March.

Offices are now plastered with special Logie Awards for team members who excelled during the break — no doubt competing to pass the chardonnay and foie gras.

What is happening to local councils in Victoria! St Leonards College, Brighton East, made an application to Council to further develop its site in Brighton East. This application had many objections from residents, was not supported by VicRoads and was subsequently rejected by Council.

Now the proposal, in a slightly amended but still undesirable form, is being directly presented by Minister for Planning, Justin Madden on the basis that it falls within the Commonwealth governments attempt to stimulate the building industry. No consultation with residents is considered in this process.

What a joke that development can occur without consideration or consultation with the people most directly affected by a development.

The once mighty Randwick Labor Party’s roll of the dice to regain control of Randwick City Council left them without their shirts by the end of the Tuesday night’s Extraordinary Council meeting.

The ALP caucus had nominated Cr. Tony Bowen, the son of former Deputy PM, Lionel, to be their mayoral candidate. Cr. Geoff Stevenson was nominated for the deputy mayoral position, much to the annoyance of The Greens deputy-mayoral candidate whose vote the ALP depended on to carry them over the line for the mayoralty. Both ALP councillors were elected to Council only last September, with the backing of Labor dinosaurs, ex-mayors Dominic Sullivan and Chris Bastic.

ALP Left-winger Cr. Paul Tracey, chief-of-staff to Coogee MP Paul Pearce, had masterminded the sub-caucus plot and a preference deal with The Greens, to the disgust of the remaining two senior caucus members, who promptly went-off and covertly stitched-up a deal with the out-going Liberal Mayor Cr. Bruce Notley-Smith, his five Liberals and two independents. Still believing to the last minute that the ALP could win, Cr. Bowen, who had both a concession and victory speeches prepared, declared to the crowded gallery that he was the only true ALP candidate. After the vote, The Greens sat in stunned silence, trying to fathom how their cross-party deal all went so terribly wrong.

74-year-old veteran Cr. John Procopiadis was elected mayor, and is getting on with the job as an independent. Sussex Street, meanwhile, is dwelling on what to do with the other caucus member who refused to vote as instructed by the likes of NSW police minister Michael Daley, ALP state secretary Matt Thistlewaite and Labor Club president Ken Murray, all of whom were lobbying up to the last minute.

Liberal Robert Belleli was elected deputy-mayor.

As a former staff member and current Myer One card holder I had plenty of time to contemplate whether to invest in the company as I waited 20 minutes to be served in the toy department of Myer Melbourne at 2pm yesterday. The place was a mess and despite almost everything being on sale and the fact that it’s school holidays there was only one staff member on one of the three registers (and two on in childrenswear nearby). No staff or managers on the floor and the lines were building and the customers (and their children) grumbling.

I’m surprised no-one walked out as I should have done but I’m sure that’s why Myer’s sales haven’t lifted since going private- it’s easy to make a profit out of cutting staff and cutting stock but it’s much harder to keep customers coming back and spending if you make the experience so execrable when they do.

I certainly won’t be rushing back as the place has been so badly run from a customer perspective that here’s barely a reason to shop there anymore let alone invest.

New Telstra chief David Thodey has been taking a very close look at Sensis, their directories business. The failure of the Trading Post was inevitable, and it’s nothing to do with the death of newspapers as some media commentators have suggested. It’s more to do with how things just wither and die when Telstra buys them (check it out — there’s a long history of RIP investments at Telstra).

Telstra paid almost $700m for one of the biggest classified businesses in the country and bungled the move from print to online (opening the way for, and allowing eBay to consolidate its market position. Similar story over at Fairfax).

Inadequate management, the need to change a successful business into the Telstra mould, inevitable and perennial restructure, a basic misunderstanding of the market causing and long and exasperating delays in launching a full online version of the Trading Post opened the doors for competitors and ultimately killed Trading Post.

This is the second or third bad announcement out of Sensis this year, and questions are being asked…

Whispers in the quiet corridors of power (Canberra’s members are on a bye until 19 October) are growing louder about the high staff turnover rate at a new FMA agency. The executive body count includes a Chief Operating Officer, HR Manager, Programs Director and Marketing Director plus countless middle managers, specialist staff and contractors. Not bad for nine months.

Insiders describe the atmosphere as toxic and outsiders say chaos reigns with no one able to make a decision or commit to an outcome. A hastily convened high level crisis meeting this week was given the directive to “just fix it” and excise the problem.

Weary staff are just hoping it happens sooner rather than later, no doubt as their political masters are too.

It’s not unusual to see NSW Police at the exits to Sydney railway stations. Presumably they’re there because of some complaint about disorderly conduct on the trains, and this is entirely appropriate. But yesterday morning there were eight uniformed NSW police (NOT railway police — I checked) actively checking tickets! Why? Don’t they have anything better to do, like, maybe, fighting crime? And why were they needed? Doesn’t Cityrail have enough staff to check tickets?

Last I heard, Cityrail had its own station staff, ticket inspectors and Railway Police! Maybe there was some kind of disturbance at the ticket gates or something, but it must have been a big one, especially for 8.15 in the morning — eight police is a serious force.

Dianetics stress test doing a roaring trade at the Perth Royal Show. Looks like just a fun sideshow to those who have no idea. Several people in having a test.

Fairfax 1. I tried to place a display ad (3cm x 9cm) that cost about $600 in the SMH. I spoke to a girl (was she eating?) about the ad and asked if she could give me some info. She wanted to look at the ad and I asked her the email address to send the pdf file to.

“Sorry”, was the reply, “you HAVE to send a fax.” I protested that surely you must accept emails and pdf files? “No,” was the reply. “It has to be a fax or alternatively, you can discuss the ad with me”.

I hung up and still have not placed the ad. For f-cks sake, Fairfax Classifieds do NOT accept email/pdf file in classified ads sales! Message to Brian McCarthy: please ensure that classifieds can receive pdf files. Who uses a fax these days if you can use email/pdf

Fairfax 2. After reading the piece about disorganisation within Fairfax, I thought the following experience, which happened a week or so ago, may provide an example. As a long time direct-debit subscriber to The Age, it had been set and forget. Until my credit card rolled over and the direct debit ceased to work. I decided not to renew and see what would happen. I ended up with three subscription options.

  1. To take out a new direct debit subscription and receive a free copy of the Good Food Guide — as advertised.
  2. To renew on the old terms, as per a letter from The Age (where’s the free Good Food Guide?)
  3. To take advantage of an offer from the newsagent of twenty 7- day weeks at $5 a week. No rolling debit.

A letter and brochure (provided by The Age and stamped by the newsagent I presume) exhorted me to avail myself of this wonderful offer by telephoning The Age or filling in and posting a form. I phoned.
The call centre operator said they couldn’t do it.

“No, sorry, it’s not on my system.”

“But, here’s the code it said to quote.” (PUMP VOL by the way, someone has a sense of humour — or transparency)

“I’m sorry I don’t know anything about it.”

“But I have it in front of me, your number on the letter and it’s on the brochure too, call it says … can’t you do something? I just want to subscribe with this offer.”

“Sorry, nope, nothing I can do.”

“Have you heard about this offer at all?” (I explain it)

“Yeah, I think so, maybe.”

“Well, you might tell your manager that The Age sales materials say you can organise it and you can’t.”

“OK, is there anything else I can do for you today?”

I gave up.