Greens go missing on climate change. Victorian Greens titular head Greg Barber failed to turn up at a lunchtime climate change debate at the Mill Park Secondary College on Wednesday afternoon. As the allotted hour slid by, more than 80 students from years 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 waited eagerly in the school library to grill Barber on the Greens’ decision last year to vote against the federal government’s emissions trading scheme. Instead of the promised heat and light, the debate evaporated into a “panel discussion”, dominated by ALP members Lily D’Ambrosio, Danielle Green and Whittlesea Mayor Mary Lalios.

Crikey investigated this tip, contacting disappointed debate coordinator Lorna Brooks, who said she had been in regular contact with Barber’s office prior to the event. She said the Environment Week fracas would have been “much more interesting” if Barber has showed, “particularly the question on the ETS.” Brooks suggested that Barber might have blanched at the prospect of taking public transport to the Mill Park event from his CBD-fringe office, because he didn’t own a car.

The ALP’s Green had a slightly different interpretation, telling Crikey that Barber had failed to make the trek because it would have involved the purchase of a Zone 2 public transport ticket. Barber recently remarked that he only requires a ‘Zone 1’ travel pass, despite his upper house division stretching from Fitzroy to Kinglake.

“Greg Barber should understand that passion about the environment doesn’t end at Zone 1, it’s alive and well among the working class kids of the north,” Green thundered. Barber said the no-show was a “diary SNAFU”.

Deputy leadership spill in SA? The smell of factional fishiness in the South Australian branch of the Labor Party has become rampant since Treasurer Kevin Foley started weighing in on Adelaide Oval. Labor MPs are openly canvassing for a deputy leadership spill before parliament resumes on June 22 — with the B-grade showdown to comprise former and current Left convenors Pat Conlon and Jay Weatherill.

Conlon and his ministerial staff have all resigned from the Left faction, which doesn’t even constitute a cricket team anymore. The Right has scotched any desire Foley has of retaining the position and is looking to hang him out to dry in the coming weeks. The forthcoming deputy leadership bout will draw blood, there’s no doubt about that. Scintillating stuff. Stay tuned.

Pike’s schools under building pressure. Stuff-ups of the Commonwealth education infrastructure grants continue at Victorian schools. The student body at Kensington Primary spent yesterday at home with their parents who received late night phone calls advising them that the school was not functioning because a contractor had burst the main water pipe. The drama follows the Victorian Education Department reneging on $60,000 initially approved for solar panelling on the same school’s new building project. Now the school has to find the money itself, or pay extra for unplanned air conditioning because the building design faces north to maximise solar energy it will not capture without the panels.

At Errol Street Primary School, the building grounds have been cordoned off for six months since summer holidays, but no building works have commenced. The tender process has just begun. Delays are causing kids to learn in crowded portables with compromised play area. Angry parents have been writing letters to Bronwyn Pike, who barely holds the seat of Melbourne, home to both these schools.

Job cuts at AMP. The AMP cost cutting, which will see at least 50 and perhaps 100 or more contractors from Sydney cut, will be “finished” today with sign-off by the board, led by chairman Peter Mason and CEO Craig Dunn. Some of the contractors have been there eight and up to 12 years. There’s no explanation, just an executive decision by Craig (don’t mention the super switching scandal of 2006) Dunn.

The best reason from inside the AMP is that the company is trying to lower costs ahead of the June 30 interim financial reporting period, while at the same time getting rid of people ahead of the still expected move on AXA. The AMP and AXA are in the same business, except the AMP doesn’t have one of those pesky ‘platforms’ that saw the ACCC block the NAB offer for AXA. The AMP is clear and the suggestion is that it expects the NAB to be unable to complete the bid, so it will then swoop, minus the jobs of a couple of hundred people. Besides today’s losses, more are going next week and up until the end of the month.

Why is Melbourne Airport still disrupted by fog? The airport announced a new instrument landing system (ILS) in March, which gives the airport the same system as Heathrow and Frankfurt. So why the delays?

No disclosure at The Fin. I really like Noel Turnbull’s ritual declaration of interest. Amusing but pointed. Perhaps Louise Dodson of the Australian Financial Review should take note and do the same when writing about the Minerals Council.  She was employed as their director of external affairs a couple of years ago.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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