Hulk Hogan’s celebrated arm wrestle with Kate “Curvy Chocolate” Ellis at Parliament House yesterday had an interesting genesis with the bronzed ex-WWF superstar scrambling to make it by the designated start-time due to a transport malfunction. Apparently Hogan’s people were all set to head to the “Sydney suburb of Canberra” yesterday morning and were horrified when the in-car GPS informed them that the national capital was, in fact, 288 kilometres away from the celebrated wrestler’s Harborside hotel.

With ASIC copping a beating in its handling of the One.Tel case, concerns are already emerging in the Sydney headquarters of the watchdog about what other cases could be re-examined should the Senate decide to hold a broader inquiry. Here’s a hint to Senators — focus on those cases most likely susceptible to political interference. The super-fast inquiry into whether the Future Fund knew anything about the Rudd Government’s plan to break up Telstra before it offloaded shares earlier in the year would be a good place to start. Did anybody notice ASIC quietly handed down its finding earlier this week? Not surprisingly, everyone involved was cleared.

With a certain federal minister and their Chief of Staff away this week, the deputy Chief of Staff has stepped up and it has been a breath of fresh air. Things have never run more smoothly: policy, media, department liaison, staff management, administration. May be a sign of things to come — the deputy Chief of Staff is tipped for bigger things. Watch this space.

One of the key players in the South Australian “dodgy documents” affair which brought the reign of former Opposition Leader Martin Hamilton-Smith to an end is back working for Hamilton-Smith! You’d think people would learn …

So it looks like the CBA can’t force journos to print advertorial after all. A year into a restructure that saw all those who offered a voice of reason voted off the island, Barbara Chapman’s desire to get all “yes” men in her media management team has proven a failure. Four people in as many weeks have left the new PR area under Stephanie Barry as they can’t get the powers that be to understand you can’t actually force the media to write what the bank would like. Looks like they will have to go back to Hill and Knowlton again!

Which major NT High School is losing over 50% of its teaching staff at the end of the year? Which major NT High School instructed teachers to mark down Indigenous students results so the school would attract more funding (they refused)? Which Department of Education is in utter disarray?

Further to your Myer stories this week, I have received three $10 gift cards this week from the store — one for my birthday, one to celebrate the upgrade of Myer Northland and one to spend at their Christmas sales. I also received a copy of the 30% off Family, Friends and Suppliers sale (what’s next? Family, Friends, Suppliers and Intergalactic Space Travellers?). All this and I haven’t used my Myer One card in over a year. Things must be a little slow in there…

I keep hearing that once again the bean counters (i.e. David Skelton (Age Business and Operations Director)) who care or know nothing about journalism are having another crack at slashing the prize money for the Perkin Award for Australian Journalist of the Year. It was Crikey that exposed the last attempt by Age managing director Don Churchill to slash the $20,000 Perkin prize money which caused a furore internally, embarrassment externally and ultimately a back down.

Churchill and Skelton are now proposing that the Perkin is to have the same status as the Grant Hattam Award. With due respect to Grant Hattam who was presumably a very good defamation lawyer, to equate the Perkin Award of 33 years standing and which is a national award and Australia’s ultimate prize in journalism, with the more recent (1998) state-based (Herald Sun sponsored) Hattam Award for investigative journalism, is an insult to the work and memory of the late Graham Perkin.

The reason, of course, is money. The Grant Hattam Award is worth $1000. The Perkin Award is $20,000. The fools running The Age — who not have the understanding, context, history or meaning of the award to The Age or Australian journalism — are intent on undermining one of the most prestigious awards in Australia.

And for what? So Churchill can save $19,000 in a company which has revenues of more than $300 million.

The barricades are up and the locals are not impressed. Heavy handed tactics by council officers have made it off limits for the kiddies, living in the area surrounding Cooper Park, (remember we are experiencing a baby boom here) to play in their favourite playground. Barring children for their own good against the terrible perils of falling liquid amber boughs.

The “Lop or Chop” protagonist are lining up for the fateful showdown to be held adjacent to the “no kiddies land” Friday at 6pm. Will the tree killers prevail or will the blue bloods of Woollahra, who have turned green, save these gentle giants.

Sentinels of the playground, who have stood watching over generations of children who have somehow miraculously survived tree fall, or skulking killers waiting to strike? Stay tuned for the next phase of the lop or chop drama.

Scientologists have often been derided just because they are scientologists but sometimes they should be listened to. Brian Bromberger, Dean of the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and in the 1960’s a teacher and football coach at Northcote High School in inner-Melbourne, is neither a defender nor an opponent of scientology, but he made just that point.

In an interview on 3LO, as Radio 774 then was, he argued that scientologists were the first to question Harry Bailey, the infamous psychiatrist at Sydney’s Chelmsford Hospital, and numerous deaths there from the practice of deep sleep therapy.

Because they were scientologists their criticisms were ignored. Subsequently their claims were proved correct. Bromberger gave an interview in 1991 about his definitive book on the subject, which he wrote in collaboration with Sydney journalist Janet Fife-Yeomans titled Harry Bailey and the Scandal at Chelmsford. It was published by Simon and Schuster, but is now out of print.

I used to work at the National Archives of Australia. I have contacted a friend who still works there, and can confirm that the closure of Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart are being considered. This is exceptionally bad news; a new repository to be built in Sydney has been delayed indefinitely.

My friend’s suggestion is to write to the federal minister, the minister for the archives (formerly Faulkner, but I think he gave that up when he moved to Defense) and to Ross Gibbs, the Archives … ummm. .. chief bureaucrat.

To explain the last; he’s a career public servant who, before assuming control of the entire collection of Australia’s largest archival collection, had never so much as shelved books in a local library. In his first staff meeting, he told us how interesting our work was, and how much he looked forward to learning about what we do. Not awe inspiring stuff. I’ll keep you updated on developments.

This is the response I got from Virgin Blue in relation to their email blunder last Friday. Truly amazing. Regards

From: Matthew Dixon
Date: 2009/11/18
To:[email protected]

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


RE: Virgin Blue feedback reference # XXXXXX


Thank you for your recent feedback regarding Velocity Gold Membership. By now it is fairly widely known that the Velocity Gold Membership upgrade email sent on Friday 13th November to more than one million Members was mistakenly sent.

It was intended for a particular group of our Silver Members who have flown so frequently in the last 12 months that they were extremely close to attaining Gold Membership. As a gesture of goodwill we upgraded these Members, and the email was intended to advise them of this upgrade. Our team identified the email error very swiftly and intercepted it, however such is the speed of modern technology it had been automatically distributed to many of our valued Velocity Members.

We are relieved that many people immediately realised the email must have been an error as they did not fly frequently enough to qualify for Gold Membership. Many Members contacted us to advise that was the case and we greatly appreciated their response.

We of course understand that the email generated may have also confused and disappointed some Members including yourself.

Once again we apologise for any confusion caused. It was a genuine mistake and we have subsequently put in place some changes to our systems which will ensure nothing of the sort can happen again.

Regrettably, as we hope you can appreciate, we are unable to upgrade Members who received this email in error. We wish to remain fair and equitable not only to each Member who received this email, but also to our Silver and Gold Members who have progressed to their status via the frequency of their travel with us.

We do hope that we have been able to express the reasons why the original email was mistakenly sent. We certainly value your support of the Virgin Blue Group of Airlines through your membership of our Velocity program.

Kind regards,

Matt Dixon
Guest Relations Manager
Virgin Blue