A public servant writes … Labor MPs at the Holy Grail in Kingston were talking frankly last week in their round-up on the past three years in government. One current minister and two Labor backbenchers were stark in their criticism in the round-up on the recent election:

“Effective long-term staffers were pushed from the Labor camp after the 2007 election. We lost too many who were capable of giving frank and fearless advice. Worse, untested political staff like Christian Taubenschlag [media adviser to former minister Joel Fitzgibbon — see 2020 scandal and mismanaging media control in Fitzgibbon’s Defence portfolio] kept his job for far too long … You shouldn’t need training wheels in the Defence portfolio.”

Sri Lanka into bat for boat people. Australian immigration officers are giving out free cricket bats in Sri Lanka emblazoned with messages to deter asylum seekers. The town of Negombo was provided with 700 of these cricket bats courtesy of the Australian government:


On the back of the bat there is a sticker that reads in Sinhalese: “Rata yanawa nam, hari paren” (if you are going overseas, go the right way) and “Warathi margayen rata yama yana ena mang nathi cara gamacri” (if I go the wrong way I will not even see the inside of the country).

Who’ll regulate the circulation regulators? I work in the legal section of a government department. There is growing recognition that the Audit Bureau of Circulations should be hauled over the coals (along with Fairfax and News Limited) for rorting newspaper “sales” figures. But action is falling between the cracks as the ACCC and ASIC bicker about who should take action: the competition watchdog to protect advertisers who are being ripped off, or ASIC looking at elements of corporate fraud.

McCathy plays with the independents. I attended a Rural Press Club lunch with Brian McCarthy of Fairfax on Friday, who was supposed to talk on the issue of the future of rural newspapers in light of the growing customer base for social media and internet sources for news. Not only did he talk exclusively about Fairfax’s market share with next to no mention on the topic, but in mentioning the independents’ decision to side with Labor he said: “We are going to have some fun with that, we own the Manning River Times [Taree] and The Northern Daily Leader [Tamworth].”

Grand Prix money drain. The Melbourne Grand Prix loses are more than the $49.3 million you reported on Friday. The resignation of CEO Drew Ward in August saw other staff go. But about $150,000 in bonuses have been paid to senior management, so they must be doing a good job.

No agreement on Australia Post work. I was interested to read your snippet relating to the new Australia Post Fair Work Agreement last Thursday, as we were given our presentation on that agreement that evening. The presentation, made by the centre manager and our CEPU representative, argued aggressively in favour of the agreement on the basis of projected future pay rates based on the up to 10% in bonuses we’d be earning in the next three years. Of that 10%, which would replace indexation, 7.5% would be guaranteed and the remaining 2.5% would be dependent on an overall increase in mail volumes for the corporation as a whole, year-on-year for three years.

Insulting in the extreme was the graph used to prosecute that argument, which compared the average AP employee’s income under actual arrangements with what it might have been had we voted “no” — on every agreement since the early 1990s, not just the one before us now. In fact, that graph showed what should have been clear — that we’d be earning less compared to indexation under the agreement even under the best case scenario — but it was annotated to state that we’d be “$200/year better off” with a yes vote, compared to having always voted no on everything for the past 20 years.

We probably needn’t worry about the extra 2.5% in pay rates, though: the corporation is removing caps on unaddressed Christmas mail for the first time this year, in an attempt to raise volumes and reduce the losses associated with our reserved market (small letters), which is projected to drop $250 million into the red this financial year.

Property matters in Victoria. Why is the Real Estate Institute of Victoria allowed to peddle their unreliable data to paint a completely different picture of the Melbourne property market? Taking into account “no result” auctions over the past five weeks, the clearance rate is falling — now to below 60% — yet the figures the REIV present indicate a clearance rate at more than 70%. The market isn’t as “balanced” as they would have you believe. Anyone who has studied investor behaviour knows people are more comfortable to move with the herd and reassurance that others are buying will influence their choices. The misinformation is deliberate as the REIV attempts to massage the market and stop buyers making informed decisions.

Students lose in accommodation deals. One of the biggest problems facing international students in Sydney is the lack of affordable, close-to-campus accommodation. In lieu of that, universities such as the University of Technology Sydney (current) and the University of Sydney (pending) are teeing up with private operators with gusto, to provide super expensive “sticky campus” units that will automatically exclude many international students.

At the same time, recent changes to NSW tenancy laws specifically did not address the burgeoning phenomenon of “mini slums”, whereby dodgy operators either own or act as head tenant for urban terrace houses, units, et al, and cram as many international students as they can into sub-divided living rooms, bedrooms, garages and sheds. As boarders and lodgers, these students have zero tenancy rights, they are subject to exploitation and abuse (including being forced to pay extremely high rents), and the crowded living conditions make for potential fire and other safety hazards.

Still, the USYD accommodation service allows such dodgy operators to freely list on its database. As with violence and other forms of racism to which many international students are routinely subjected, the failure by the NSW state government to address this accommodation issue is quite rightly a potent deterrent to studying here.

Thanks anyway, eventually. How inefficient is the Australian government bureaucracy? A seven-month time delay in finally receiving my rejection — Geneva could have been invaded by the Nazis in this time.

——Original Message——
From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Sent: Sep 18, 2010 6:03 PM
Subject: 2010/02 – International Division – EL2 application

Dear Xxxxxxxxx,

Thank you for your application for the International Division process (2010/02), with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which was advertised in the Public Service Gazette on 4 February 2010 and the press at that time.

Your application has been reviewed by the Selection Committee and on this occasion you were not shortlisted for the consideration for further assessment at Executive Level 2.

Thank you again for your interest in employment with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.  We encourage you to keep informed about positions matching your experience and skills through our website at http://pmc.nga.net.au/fnt_jobs_list.cfm

We wish you success in your career aspirations.

Kindest regards,

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet