Bob’s a top bloke. For my sins I worked as a staffer to Bob Katter in the distant past. Buried under that cowboy hat and cowboy attitude is an admittedly freewheeling but very shrewd mind which always has the best interests of his constituents at its centre. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is unrelentingly honest and frank (a real pain for we advisors but something our other pollies could learn from).

Privately, independents back Labor. The gang of three plus the Green will support Labor to form a stable government. They have stated behind closed doors that Tony Abbott will not be able to serve in the ‘public interest’ in such an arrangement. Never thought I would hear these words about a Liberal government. To verify ask Tony Winsor and Bob Katter about comments made after the Press Club address around green energy industries for rural communities and who has offered funding to develop it…

Who’ll take on the faceless men now? It’s notable that Alannah MacTiernan’s demise in Canning also marks the departure of one of the few figures prepared to take on Labor’s power brokers, following the comparatively recent resignation of Evan Thornley from the Victorian parliament. MacTiernan’s ‘Labor Reform Group’ in Western Australia had annoyed the powerbrokers on both right and left almost as much as Thornley’s ‘Labor First’ centered in Victoria.

The speaker and scrutineer. How undignified to witness the Speaker of the Victorian Legislative Assembly, Jenny Lindell, having to scrutineer for the federal candidate in Dunkley, Helen Constas, in Seaford yesterday. She didn’t look very happy being there!

No sympathy from the Netherlands. If people are getting tetchy in Australia at the thought of having to wait on the final results of the election, perhaps they should spare a thought for those of us living in the Netherlands. Over here the cabinet fell on February 20, Labor ministers tendered their resignation to the Queen on February 23 prompting a June 9 election. Today, August 25, negotiations on formation of a coalition are still continuing (and as it appears at the moment, nowhere near resolution). At this rate, the caretaker government may end up governing longer than the last elected one.

Langdon forgets Conroy history. Departing Victorian government MP Craig Langdon has blamed Bill Shorten for his de-selection a year ago but neglected to mention the support he received from other sections of the ALP Right. With the seat pledged to the Labor Unity under the party’s stability pact with the Socialist Left, the tense meeting of the Public Office Selection Committee on July 23 last year devolved into bickering when it emerged that sections of Unity aligned to Stephen Conroy and elements of the Rebel Right centred on the NUW/SDA alliance, were both behind Langdon. But the addition of the Socialist Left block and wavering among Conroy’s crowd eventually got challenger Anthony Carbines over the line.

Paper redesign by focus group. Amazing scenes at News Limited’s Cumberland Newspapers in Sydney where the entire design, content, structure and positioning of all its newspapers and magazines has been entrusted to … a focus group. Yes, John Singleton’s advertising agency Banjo ran a series of focus groups, tabulated the findings and now they are being breathlessly presented to all staff as a template for the future. Really.

So much for existing staff and workers who have toiled so hard to keep the company going during the global recession. Too bad for people who have given their soul to a company that famously treats them like cattle. Seems editors and reporters know less than an advertising agency about how the news business is run. Cumberland Courier editors would of course liked to have had a say and been listened to, however famously aloof editor-in-chief  Bob Osburn cancelled the annual editors’ get together a few years back. He just forgot to tell his editors why he was no longer prepared to seek their counsel.

So stay tuned for your local newspaper to look and read like the dear departed Glebe and Inner Western Weekly. It was the last Cumberland paper to be re-shaped by focus group and be re-designed by experts from Holt Street. It was famously described by one long-suffering (and departed) editor as a publication that didn’t know if it was a newspaper pretending to be a magazine or a magazine pretending to be a newspaper. Readers thought so too as they dumped it in the recycle bins and a great paper was reduced to nothing in three short years.

News’ online experiment a failure. They hired actors, singers and paid for two journos to travel to Canberra and report from the national tally room. A special election night studio was built and staff levels were at their peak. But by the end of the night AdelaideNow, the local News Limited online outfit, had only managed 16,000 hits. Questions are being asked about the all-singing all-dancing format that sounded more like a party for 60-year-olds than effective election coverage.

Newspaper free-for-all #754: I note that the Herald Sun makes available a big pile of free copies every day outside the cafeteria in one of the main Department of Defence buildings in Canberra.

Impotency at Victorian schools. Try a Google query for: buy <insert well known performance enhancing product starting with ‘v’ here>. I get 3,110 results from compromised Victorian school websites. It seems that there is a remarkable lack of security within the Victorian school system.