Bligh’s cutting dissenters. Interesting moves in the Queensland ALP. Premier Anna Bligh’s office is lobbying that those who opposed the privatisation of asset sales be knocked off the Left executive and replaced by comrades more supportive of the premier’s line. That should shore up her position nicely, as the Right and old guard are locked in.

Unis fear new authority. For 18 months, the Commonwealth government has been planning to set up a new statutory authority — TEQSA — to regulate higher education. Some people in the sector are worried that TEQSA will restrict universities’ autonomy and give government much more power over higher education institutions than it has ever had before. But it’s hard to tell what TEQSA might do, since very few details of the plan are publicly available — even though legislation is due to be introduced to parliament before it rises in a week and a half.

The government is holding a “lock-up” this week to explain the draft legislation, but only 12 people from the university sector have been invited, and they are literally sworn to secrecy. The “consultation” process is a farce, and raises concerns about what the government is really trying to achieve. This is not how to design good policy, and it will do nothing to allay universities’ fears.

Money for union members. The Health Services Union is at it again. First, a competition offering $25,000 to sign up a non-union member in Sydney and the ACT. Another $25,000 for Victoria to sign up a non-union member. Members’ money at work again. Also, HSU is going to wine and dine Victorian employers at the Hyatt. Makes you wonder what side of the fence they are really on.

Members have still not been told in Victoria that they have amalgamated with Sydney and called the eastern branch. Sydney organisers are hitting the hospitals in Victoria this week to try and get members. Another case of faceless men. Do they really care about the members?

Planning report didn’t go far enough. The Grattan Institute report on city governance is largely right but its “soft” social-policy character does not go far enough into power dimensions — sources and nature of funding, co-ordinative oversight, transparency in advance of contract signing and the like. Both sides of politics in NSW have had loopy ideas, with more to come after the March election. Both have “sponsors” (external controllers?) who push hard for developer-driven outcomes such as tall waterfront towers.

Regardless of structure and process, such decisions coming out of politicians’ offices drive the urban agenda.  Unfortunately, the people who pay get only an occasional and very indirect chance to express their contempt through the ballot box.

Sub-prime Aussie loans? Lunching with a friend in Canberra yesterday, I was told that the ANZ bank is issuing financial documents involving second, third or fourth mortgages. This seemed to me to be very like the behaviour of the American banks that led to so much trouble.

Albrechtsen’s CBA ties. Janet Albrechtsen has leapt to the defence of the banking cartel yet again in The Australian today and, as usual, fails to reveal the many millions her family has pocketed from the Commonwealth Bank. As Crikey has noted previously, Janet’s husband John O’Sullivan used to be general counsel at CBA and in 2006-07 was paid $2.4 million. When he left the bank in October 2007 to head up Credit Suisse in Australia, O’Sullivan owned 114,000 CBA shares, which, if retained today, would be worth $5.5 million.

And the profits didn’t end there. When CBA bought BankWest in 2008 during the GFC, Credit Suisse was appointed “exclusive adviser”, although the chairman stressed the fee was “less than $20 million” when this was discussed in detail at the 2008 AGM.

No disclosure from ex-Lib. Bendigo Advertiser editor Peter Kennedy is promoting his exclusive interview with John Howard for the weekend edition in a “news story” today. Unsurprisingly, there’s no disclosure of Kennedy’s status as the Liberals candidate for Bendigo at the 2007 election.

Unhappy Melbourne newsroom. Movement continues at a certain Melbourne newsroom with yet another reporter leaving. When will it be time for the Brazilian? Morale is at an all-time low.

Peter Fray

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