Victorian insurers gouge on floods. We’re told RACV and CGU are increasing house and contents insurance in the Victorian regions of Shepparton and Mooroopna by “obscene amounts” by including compulsory flood insurance. Says one worried Crikey reader:

“Some families I know of and know personally have had their premiums go up from $650 to $6900 and $1000 to $8000. I am unemployed and barely holding onto my small timber house, and my insurance was to go up from $1100 to $3953 even though my house is raised above the 1972 and 1993 flood levels. This will effect ALL of Mooroopna (as far as I can ascertain). People are going to lose their houses. If I had to pay that amount, it is almost a third of my annual Centrelink benefit, and equates to two-thirds of my annual repayments of my mortgage.”

Have other customers also felt the pinch? Let us know: drop us a line or use the anonymous form.

Is there a shortage of shorthand? Cadets at The Age have been left in shorthand limbo after Victorian T-line doyenne Jacqui Cheng was forced to withdraw her services for 2012 after adopting a child. We’re told the cadets had a done a few months with Cheng following their start in November and now the search is on in earnest for a replacement. The only problem being that, according to Cheng, there is hardly anyone in Victoria with the requisite skills.

Crack Age court reporters including Adrian Lowe have benefited from Cheng’s tutelage but it seems the current crop will have to wait. “There is a course at Swinburne or somewhere but that’s only one night a week … there’s not a lot they can do if they can’t find someone else,” Cheng told Crikey this morning. Anyone …?

Who’s patrolling the Antarctic skies? “Why,” asks one aviation industry spy, “is the Australian government still paying private airline Skytraders for aviation services in Antarctica, while both its CASA 212 aircraft are sitting on the ground in Essendon? Not only are they paying Skytraders for a job they are not doing, but they are also paying for two Canadian aircraft to replace them?” One for our aviation man Ben Sandilands we reckon; apparently the cost to the taxpayer is significant …