Hacks tapped to join Newman government. Queensland’s premier-in-waiting Campbell Newman is apparently already making plans to take office. Apparently several media types around Brisbane have been sounded out by Liberal-National hacks to take on advisory roles with new ministers. Our George Street spy reports:

“It appears at least on the media side that Newman may be wise enough to aim to hire talented professionals over blind party puppets who’ve never worked in the media. And with very few decent die-hard LNP supporters ever actually working in government there will be terrifying on-the-job learning — and that’s just the ministers. With Labor in power for 20 of the past 22 years many talented journalists and media practitioners have already done their stint in government and have wisely moved on to bigger, better and more gratifying roles. And with standard salaries for senior media advisers generally hovering around the $110,000 range — give or take — any of the decent ones are earning double the money working half the hours with bonuses in major corporations around town.

“For those conservative journalists who may have been waiting for their day in the sun, no doubt the job will be tough and thankless for the first year while the LNP finds its feet and its way around Parliament House. With standard public service pay rates not measuring up favourably against the private sector, there will want to be a lot of conservative love for the party to keep the best holding on and having any standing with the relentless parliamentary media gallery. Alternatively, Newman will need to buck the rules and up salary rates set by the Ministerial Services Branch to get quality people for the job.

“Either way, Newman will be brave to hire lightweights in his early days and increase salaries as one of his first major changes to public service policy. It will be very telling to watch which working media jump ship to sign up for what could be a very difficult job keeping a new premier and a new cabinet in favour with the press.”

Motorists aren’t backing Newman. Meanwhile, springing up everywhere in Queensland, we’re reliably told: a bumper sticker that says “Can DO is a Cant”.

‘Technical issues’ for Fairfax site. Is Fairfax not paying its bills? That’s what one user of the company’s Stayz.com.au website reckons. He says he has two properties listed on the site and the company owes him about $6500 dating back to just before Christmas. “To my knowledge none of the 33,000 house owners have been paid so that is a shit load on money they are holding,” they say. “They continue to take online payments for future bookings however . They at first cited the public holidays as the reason, now they are claiming a technical issue.”

Why are insurers hiking premiums? Lots of feedback on our tip yesterday that insurers RACV and CGU are significantly hiking house and contents insurance in parts of Victoria by including compulsory flood insurance. As one Mooroopna resident, an RACV customer, explains:

“After receiving a letter from RACV I called at their Shepparton office today to be advised that my annual house and contents insurance will increase from the current $426.76 to $4995.48. I also have RACV insurance on a number of cars which along with an RACV ‘gold’ membership benefit and a 25% no-claim bonus discount provides me with a significant discount on my house and contents insurance. This massive increase in premium is despite the fact my house is outside the one in 100 year flood zone as designated by Goulburn Broken Catchment Authority. I am a retired civil engineer with 43 years in the water industry including involvement with the Shepparton/Mooroopna flood study and the subsequent upgraded flood warning system.”

Why, our reader asks, should he be subject to an insurance premium increase when his home is outside the flood zone? Another resident in Melbourne’s Dandenongs reports GIO hiked their insurance from $1450.91 to $2398.69 — despite no fire activity since the last policy period. “The GIO rep was certain that I would not be able to do better elsewhere — a little too certain,” they say.

And it’s not just Victoria where customers are feeling the pinch. “SGIC are including this as an unsought after ‘standard’ now in South Australia as well,” notes another reader. “I can barely wait to see the impact on my premiums.”

NY Times doesn’t bother with Oz. A Crikey reader notes: “The New York Times has listed its 45 places to go in 2012. Australia is not on the list.” Thanks for nothing, Oprah.

Peter Fray

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