Macquarie Federal candidate hopeful, Blue Mountains mayor Adam Searle, has his hands full with a council that is almost broken.

Pandering to the hysterical rantings of one of his ALP colleagues, mayor Searle has foolishly agreed to hold an extraordinary council meeting on December 30 regarding a matter that is far from urgent. Residents from the town centre of Springwood, who are the subject of the meeting, are less than impressed that the meeting has been called between  Christmas and New Year.

Insiders are calling the move stupid and believe that Searle has just made himself a whole new set of enemies by agreeing to the meeting at this time. Many believe that Searle is unable to manage the council, which is fast disintegrating.

By Searle agreeing to this meeting, he has capitulated to the right of which both his ALP colleagues are members, along with the three Liberal councillors who also support the meeting call. Searle is clearly a man under pressure.

Regarding federal government consultants — look out for consultancies to rise again this financial year. In order to meet the 2% efficiency dividend, our department cut 250 staff ( none from front-line operations). We have the same amount of work to be done (if not more since we are 250 staff down) so the only real way to keep the minister happy is to get consultants in to get the work done. We’ll be over budget but the minister will be happy and so will Tanner because the books have 250 less staff on them.

It’s a pretty good sign than MySpace has lost its cachet with online social networkers when News Ltd starts running not-so-subtle advertorials.

Kim Dalton’s restructure is timely and should have been implemented at least six months ago shortly after the ABC successfully lobbied for more funding for television. However, after a year of some lacklustre programs and dubious programming decisions will he really bite the bullet and open the restructure to recruits from outside the ABC, who can bring some fresh ideas and strong industry experience to the organisation?

Original, diverse and provocative content creation and not audience ratings is the key to the ABC’s future success and if there is no job competition one can only fear it will remain business as usual with just a larger management and the same people. Mark Scott should watch this restructure with a keen and overseeing interest.

Senator Scott Ludlam’s chasing some input for questions on notice for Conroy’s great firewall.  There may be hope yet for the Greens, despite having Clive Hamilton in their ranks. Swamp the minister, his filter has more holes than a chicken wire fence and everyone knows it.  Why was it tested on the smallest ISP’s Conroy could find, how does this tell us what will happen when the system is scaled up to the entire country?

I have just completed an online survey about my attitudes to a variety of fast-food companies that was pretty obviously commissioned by McDonald’s about my attitudes towards them.  I didn’t mind being asked some typical survey questions (like whether I knew they had sustainable coffee and had lowered the amount of sugar in their buns or whether I’d ever been to their website) and I gladly answered them honestly and then told them that I did know some of this stuff but that I still didn’t believe that they were doing such things for any other reason that to appear to be selling healthier and more sustainable food when they still make their money from fries and fatty burgers.

However, I did get more concerned as the survey asked whether I trusted certain sources of information (McDonald’s advertising, their CEO and spokespeople, dietary experts, university research centres, health organisations, non-profit organisations and magazine editorials). Clearly they were trying to work out not only who I trust but who they might want to approach to push their products.

And this outraged me and in fact made me think of cigarette companies in the old days — desperately commissioning surveys by “experts” to try and hang onto the notion that cigarettes might just, possibly, be healthy.  And what crap was that.

On a side issue, they seemed rather interested in whether I was an extrovert or introvert, how many people I spoke to in a week, whether I spoke to many people in a week, what I said and whether I spoke to many people about McDonald’s and positively and negatively.  I have completed a few surveys in my time and this was a new line of questioning.

They just forgot to ask whether I subscribed to Crikey and wanted to alert their readers to their PR strategy.  Whoops!  So when you see a new ad or article about McDonald’s that has a claim by an expert — ask them how much it cost the PR company to find the expert and how much they were paid.  Or do what I’ve started doing and eat there less often.

Peter Fray

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