Just some more dysfunction in regards to the NT education system and the ineffective intervention. Did you know there are 84 girls and young women known to the NT education department who are young mothers in Alice Springs? All are between the ages of 12 and 17 and none are attending school. There is currently no program and never has been for pregnant girls and young mothers. The department is currently spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new middle school without providing or including pregnant young women and mothers in the education system.

While I am not aware of the total students population in this age bracket, I believe 84 known girls (it is likely there are more not known to the system) is a fair percentage of the secondary Alice Springs school-age population.

Why is it that no action is being taken against Alex Hawke, following his admission that he used his electorate office for a party political meeting? This is in clear contravention of parliamentary entitlement guidelines. It is contrary to guidelines to use a public-funded electorate office for meetings of the Liberal Party.

The fitness industry is awarding Certificate IV qualifications to people after just an eight-week correspondence course. Some off them don’t even know how to take blood pressure readings. Not enough regulation for this industry. Seems to suit employers, who exploit their staff, to aim for gym memberships and employ 19-year-olds rather than a TAFE-qualified student where practicals are monitored. Seems easy for governments to turn a blind eye as at least it’s creating jobs.

I am not employed in the industry but, as an ex-rugby player and coach, am dismayed at the lack of knowledge and professionalism in this industry. My main concerns are:  health and well-being of customers/clients; programs being written that are too difficult initially causing high drop-out rate; not contributing to reducing obesity in Australia when it could be a major contributor and significantly reduce health costs.

The Commonwealth Bank has instructed its staff that it aims to be No.1 in the bank survey by June 2010. Their reward, not sure, Ralph Norris’ reward,  an $11 million bonus. Also, they used to give their personal lenders a week’s notice of impending fixed rate rises, so that they could let their grade one customers who were looking to lock in their interests rates do so. No longer. Their memos now read “rate rise as of today”

Australian Film Industry: Interesting snippet from InsideFilm magazine that a Screen Australia board member has asked the chief executive to review the performance of the Australian film Two Fists One Heart, which, with a Screen Australian investment of $4 million and a budget of $8.5 million, had a box office return of $295,000 when released through Buena Vista.

Alan Finney, the head of Buena Vista, must be fuming. After all he released Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert and Muriel’s Wedding in 1992 and both returned more than $16 million BO each. But what should be said is that Two Fists One Heart was chosen through Screen Australia’s in-house evaluation system, which every film must now pass through if it wants SA money and irrespective of its other investors.

One would assume that there will be the same inquiry of the following films recently released, which also went through SA evaluation:

  • Blessed: Budget — About $4 million, SA investment $1.4 million, box office $427,000.
  • Stone Brothers: Budget — about $4 million, SA investment $2.2 million, box office $69,000.
  • Last Ride: Budget — about $4 million, SA investment $1.4 million, box office $427,000.
  • Balibo: Budget — about $4.5 million, SA investment $2.87 million, box office $1.2 million.

The latter was produced and directed by an SA board member. Many evaluation films after some time have not been released or are only in limited release. So who evaluates the evaluators? Does this system of evaluation, which has only been in existence for three years, work? What is the criteria for a successful Australian film?

Yes, we know it is tough for Aussie films but perhaps it is time for Mr Garrett to take a look at the practices of Screen Australia, this large, recently merged and unaccountable arts bureaucracy.

Listeners to Sydney’s ABC 702 may be puzzled why they have been bombarded with promos inviting them (to pay for) the annual Andrew Olle lecture to be given  on November 6. Tickets “are going fast” says the voiceover. Really? Then why has this ad been running daily for the past six weeks?

Maybe the reason is the lecturer will be Julian Morrow, one of the clever young-ish men who brought us The Chaser. Is this the future of journalism?

Have you noticed that “Quadrant Online” is featuring a link on their front page to a piece by your sometime contributor and Greens candidate Clive Hamilton, which they have titled “Let’s Kill Koalas”? Presumably they are trying to show up Clive for advocating that the cuddly koalas should be culled. Do you think they realise that Clive’s piece was a spoof? Looks like they have fallen victim to another hoax, to me!

It seems that Big Food is rather blatant about trying to exert its influence. An ad seeking a corporate communications manager is currently displayed on mycareer.com.au and it says that:

A leading FMCG brand is looking for a senior Corporate Communications Manager to start at the beginning of November for a 12 month contract. You responsibilities will include the following:

  • Influences key nutrition, health & advocacy groups (specifically D.A.A., N.H.F., Parents Jury).
  • Influences industry bodies (specifically AFGC, AANA & Go Grains) to best represent the company’s position to ensure a positive outcome.

I am assuming that N.H.F. is the National Heart Foundation (maybe that’s why the NHF is giving out all those Heart Foundation ticks to what you would think are unhealthy products). The D.A.A. is the Dieticians Association of Australia and the Parents Jury is an online network of parents, grandparents and guardians, who are interested in improving the food and physical activity environments of Australian children. The AFCG is the Australian Food and Grocery Council run by Kate Carnell.

It seems Big Food doesn’t have any shame these days — they are coming right out and admitting they are trying to influence the independent bodies we rely to give us unbiased information.

Brisbane lord mayor Campbell Newman’s latest white (concrete) elephant, the redeveloped King George Square in Brisbane City, opens this Sunday and already everybody hates it! The redevelopment has been copping flak from residents, designers and the media since the construction fences came down a week or two ago (here, here and here).

Chief concerns are that the design is just bleak, hot, white concrete, with absolutely no greenery or shade — not real clever when you look at Brisbane’s climate. The previous KGS had lots of lovely grass and was a popular place to meet and/or sit and eat lunch. No chance of doing that at the new KGS! The redevelopment has taken three years and cost $28 million — that’s a budget blowout of $4 million to $16 million depending on who you listen to!

And now, it seems like people hate the new King George Square so much, they’re not even willing to go to the official opening this Sunday (25 Oct 09). Panicked staffers from the Lord Mayor’s office started calling around chasing RSVPs days before RSVPs were supposed to close after a particularly underwhelming response to the official invitations.

Then, late last Thursday afternoon (October 22), a last-minute invite was sent to council staff begging them (and their families!) to come along to the opening yesterday. The full email is included below:

I am delighted to invite you and your family members to the official opening of the redeveloped King George Square with a free party for the city this Sunday 25 October.

The redevelopment works have created a space that reflects the historic values of the Square, as well as its evolving role as a transit hub and ceremonial and civic heart of the city.

The event will feature a sausage sizzle, free performances from local bands, theatre groups and a roving circus will entertain visitors from 11am until 2pm. Performers include local alternative roots band Busby Marou, Flipside Circus, Burundian Drumming Group, Aboriginal Dance group Nunukul Yuggera, stilt walkers and roving puppets.

It is also a wonderful opportunity to encourage life back into King George Square, which has been transformed after a $28 million, three-year refurbishment.

Council funded the King George Square redesign so that it would be a commonly used place for people to make the most of Brisbane’s great outdoors in the heart of the CBD.

The new-look space features a large covered deck, raised amphitheatre and state-of-the-art water feature.

Come along on Sunday to check out the new features plus re-acquaint yourself with the much loved newly returned iconic statues.

In addition the last naturalisation ceremony at City Hall for three years will also take place before the building closes for essential restoration work at the end of 2009.

More than 500 people will become Australian citizens in the iconic building just before the King George Square opening ceremony begins.

I look forward to celebrating the opening of this important space with you and your family members on Sunday.

Campbell Newman

Lord Mayor

And finally…

Had to laugh during a telephone application for a home loan with the Commonwealth Bank this morning.

After going through the various security questions just to establish that I was who I said I was (even though I was actually returning this guy’s call after originally submitting my details online), he then started checking off each of my existing accounts.

“So can you confirm that you have a credit card account with us?” he asked.

“Yes, I have a Visa account.”

“And are you happy with the credit limit?”

“Yes.”

“Because I can raise it right here and now if you’d like.”

“Can you?”

“Absolutely!”

“Well, in that case, I’d like you to reduce it.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that. You’d have to speak to another department.”

So much for GFC driving the Big Four into becoming a little more circumspect about throwing credit and anybody for anything …

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