Will Liberals cut foreign aid? Tony Abbott and his team are proposing that $280 million be cut from Australia’s long-term aid budget to Africa in order to help pay for the floods and cyclone, as an alternative to the flood levy. The proposal is among a list of items to be cut that have been identified by focus groups conducted in marginal seats as being either unpopular or not of great importance to marginal voters in marginal seats.  The list is being discussed at this morning’s shadow cabinet meeting.

Myer managers on notice. The Myer board has expressed displeasure at the inability to generate significant top line sales growth and has put management on notice, which will mean even heavier cost reduction this year. Expect some management changes at the top of Myer this year, and watch the media sentiment change as finance hacks wake up to the realisation they are staring at yet another failed Myer strategy.

Travel expenses run up at ACMA. An insider at the Australian Communications and Media Authority tells me that there is a serious problem with senior staff making exorbitant travel reimbursement claims (bottles of expensive champagne and IT equipment, etc) and that one senior manager has amassed a bill on his official mobile phone for over $7000 in private calls in just three months. Seems that he refused to reimburse ACMA and the chair has decided not to press him for it. Morale in the finance division is very low after their unsuccessful and unsupported attempts to recoup the money and put a stop to excess travel expenses.

The Age goes missing on weekends. The Age‘s poor coverage of the Victorian floods may have something to do with management’s recent decision to regularly leave The Age Online unstaffed on weekends. Even if reporters wanted to file for the website, there is no one there for them to file to. Beggars belief.

Tugs go missing in airport rain. A woeful response at both Sydney and Melbourne airports on Friday night when faced with torrential rain across Victoria. Many flights were delayed out of Sydney on Friday night due to the weather. When we eventually boarded for departure 90 minutes late (understandable due to the weather), we had to wait an additional 20 minutes for a tug to push us back. The pilot announced that Sydney usually only had one tug operator working that late due to the small number of flights that usually used the airport at the time, and we had to wait our turn. With quite a few delayed flights awaiting departure, it was a long delay.

On arrival in Melbourne, we had to wait again for the airport’s sole working tug operator, and then we had to wait another 20 minutes at the gate for the only aerobridge crew working on Friday night. There were more than 500 people waiting in the taxi queue, which meant another 40 minute delay. Perhaps both airports need to review their weather contingency plans.

Cambodia to do a Tunisia? I had coffee with a mate yesterday, a team leader for a regional research program which takes him to various tinpot nations like Cambodia, surely one of the worst governed places in the world. The talk on the streets is that people are waiting for Cambodia’s Tunisia time — as it is Vietnam, where the regions are sick of central office rapaciousness. Laos and China have banned Egyptian news, but the Laos people have the sense to dodge the local stations and watch Thai TV instead.

Interesting that the Thais, who had their own Tunisian times recently, and are also in the pockets of the US, are open enough to show the ongoing Middle East fiesta of street demands for democracy. But the old dictators of Asia are a bit nervous. “Pass the Mekong whiskey Boun will ya?”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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