Labor fixers converge on watering hole. A Crikey spy reports from the Port Office Hotel in Brisbane on Friday night:

“Any hope a group of east-coast Labor operators looking for a drink had of keeping it quiet were dashed when they accidentally stumbled right into the middle of lively farewell drinks for a Queensland parliament press gallery journo. Propping up the bar were a clique of the Right’s numbers men, fixers and enforcers: Paul Howes, Queensland state secretary Anthony Chisholm, NSW general secretary Sam Dastyari, Wayne Swan’s chief-of-staff Jim Chalmers and Bligh’s spinner recruited from NSW, Eamonn Fitzpatrick. Couldn’t hear what was being discussed. Looking on and standing just metres away: the ABC’s Chris O’Brien and Jess Van Vonderen, AAP’s Jessica Marzalek (who is bound for the Canberra gallery) and assorted AAP, ABC and News Limited journos.”

Qantas in overdrive before grounding. More stories are emerging from inside Qantas of the extensive preparations that went into the grounding of the airline last weekend. One flight crew member reports:

“Alan Joyce has stated several times the decision to ground the airline was made on Saturday. Interesting to note though, managers of our cabin crew colleagues were positioned Thursday and Friday on Singapore Airlines, and others, to ‘support’ the cabin crew during the grounding. They were there in those ports, holding meetings and Q&As on the day of the grounding and the following day. They even met cabin crew as they arrived on the Saturday night. All were sent before the Saturday meeting of the board that supposedly decided on the grounding that morning (according to Joyce). They all then happened to deliver cabin crew briefings the day of the grounding, and the day after to all crew in those ports.”

Sydney Film Festival finds a new muse. After a long wait, the Sydney Film Festival will finally announce its new artistic director within the next couple of days, we’re told. It has been about six months since former director Claire Stewart decided not to re-apply to manage the event. An official announcement was made by the festival organisers last June.

As Crikey reported earlier this year, it took around 6½ weeks after learning of Stewart’s intentions to not continue in the role for the board to launch a job advertisement for the position. It was speculated that the delay was to stop the media’s attention focusing on Stewart’s resignation rather than the festival itself. Programs are usually planned for at least 12 months, but festival CEO Leigh Small insisted today the employment process “sits within our timeline for a really great festival”. Small confirms that a public announcement of the new artistic boss will be made by NSW Arts Minister George Souris within the next couple of days.

Chancellor responds to UQ scandal. There are new reports of nepotism at the University of Queensland today, which forced vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield and deputy Michael Keniger to stand down last week. Chancellor John Story dispatched this email to students on Saturday …

TO: All UQ Staff, Students and Alumni
FROM: Mr John Story, Chancellor
DATE: 5 November 2011
SUBJECT: Message to UQ community from Chancellor

I am writing to advise what actions the University has taken in relation to an irregularity in the admission process of a UQ student.

The matter was brought to my attention in September 2011 and I immediately initiated an independent external investigation by a Senior Counsel.

The investigation confirmed an irregularity had occurred in the admission process for a student, but there was no finding of misconduct with respect to any individual. Further, the investigation found no suggestions of wrong-doing on the part of the student, whose identity is protected under privacy provisions.

Professor Greenfield, as Vice-Chancellor, and Professor Keniger, as Acting Vice-Chancellor at the time, each accepted, by virtue of their positions, that they had ultimate responsibility and accountability for the irregularity and each offered his resignation.

The 22-member University Senate, comprising independent members of the community, plus staff, students and alumni representatives, accepted their resignations.

I am deeply saddened by this matter, which should not have occurred, and I acknowledge that it has caused concern to our UQ community. We have taken all necessary steps to preserve the integrity of the University’s practices and are committed to providing fair and just opportunities to students and staff alike.

In addition, the University has undertaken a thorough and extensive review of student admission processes across the University. As a result of this review, some changes to tighten relevant rules and processes have been recommended and will go to the Senate’s Legislative Committee before being considered by the December 8 Senate meeting for approval.

I wish to stress that nothing in this matter should be seen as detracting from the huge and enduring contributions that Professor Greenfield and Professor Keniger have made to the University and the broader community.  They have each dedicated more than 30 years of their careers as teachers, researchers and administrators at UQ, and have each made outstanding contributions to their communities and professions.

To facilitate an orderly transition in the University’s best interests, Professor Greenfield will step down in mid-2012 to enable a new Vice-Chancellor to be recruited. Professor Keniger will step down as Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor in December 2011.  As part of this process, the University has commenced an international search for a new Vice-Chancellor.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Deborah Terry, will take over as acting Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor from 1 January 2012. Please be reassured that it is very much business as usual.

It has been a full year for the University, starting with the Brisbane floods and continuing with tremendous international successes in international rankings and outstanding staff, student and alumni achievements.

I would like to reassure you that The University of Queensland remains in capable hands and we will continue to strive for the highest standards for which we are internationally renowned.

The University of Queensland is a robust institution with 101 years history and outstanding strength and depth in its staff, students and alumni. I have every confidence that with your support, UQ’s performance and reputation will continue to grow.

Yours sincerely,

John Story
Chancellor of The University of Queensland