Alby makes way for businessman? Who’s the prominent Sydney businessman and director apparently lining up Liberal hard man Alby Schultz’s seat of Hume? Rumours have circulated for some time that Schultz, who underwent a quadruple bypass earlier this year, was headed for the door. But he was having none of it yesterday, telling Crikey he will stand for Liberal preselection and people should stop listening to “rumours from the National Party”.

And it may well be that’s where the rumours are coming from. But our source insists the Liberals are keen on the business type and Rhodes scholar — who isn’t returning our calls — who will apparently run a “presidential-style campaign and blow the Nats out of the water if they dare challenge”. They even say he’s a future party leader.

Who was told about Qantas grounding? Adding to the host of suppliers and sources — some of them featured in Crikey yesterday — who insist Qantas was planning for its shutdown well ahead of time, we’re told today caterers to the airline were told a week before. Meanwhile, another insider tells us middle managers were already deployed on Saturday night in various ports such as Singapore, Los Angeles and London to brief cabin crew. “How did they already get there as the airline was grounded?” Good question.

As for the “word on the street” from one tipster that the Qantas grounding was a plot by Liberal Party powerbrokers to put industrial relations back on the agenda … seems a little far-fetched to us. The Qantas strike was at least a great leveller: one spy reports Ros Packer, widow of Kerry, was sighted sitting in a Virgin jet flying Brisbane-Sydney on Sunday afternoon. Where was the Crown jet?

Thai flooding will hit computers, cars. A well-connected business source speculates:

“Just as the Queensland floods hit the global coal market and steel industries (as did cyclones in January and February in WA) and the March 11 quake and tsunami hit the Japanese and global car, computers and electronics industries, watch for the Bangkok floods to have a similar impact. Reports in Japanese and US media say hard-disk drives are on the verge of a global shortage now that the bulk of their production sites have been inundated by the flooding in Thailand, a country that accounts for half the global supply. And Japanese car companies are starting to cut production in Japan and the US and Europe as the floods in Thailand hit production in the huge Japanese car and auto parts industry based in that country. If it continues car imports into Australia will be hit (watch Toyota and Honda which sell Thai made models here). Ford is also impacted, as are car industries in Indonesia and other Asian countries.”

SBS cancels newspaper subs. A call for the needy: apparently the budget crisis at SBS is so bad they can no longer afford daily newspapers. For all those thousands bombed out for free each day, surely a few could be sent to the poor public broadcaster? Our insider would appreciate it.

Peter Fray

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