Abbott appearance long promoted. Asks one Crikey reader: “Wasn’t Tony Abbott’s name listed outside the Lobby as attending the Australia Day ceremony for at least a week beforehand?” We’re not sure, was it?

Can-Do’s first task: pulling back payouts. If Campbell Newman has the chance to stride into the rather dowdy premier’s office after the Queensland election, one of his first tasks will be to sort out the contracts of several senior department heads. Our George Street spy reports it could get ugly:

“Some recently shuffled and appointed directors-general, obviously with an eye to the political climate, have approved and had approved some interesting variations to their new contracts. The general rule is that a director-general or director level should have a payout if they’re shuffled out of their job before the usual three- or five-year terms by, say, a change of government. That’s set at 20% of the contract value — generally about a year’s pay, which can vary from $250,000 to almost $1 million a year with the generous super and leave loadings.

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“However, two recent contracts featured considerably greater payouts. One was at 100% of the entire contract value. Given this D-G is hardly flavour of the month with the LNP, the payout would exceed $2 million. Given Newman’s very light-on ‘change of government’ document does not fully appreciate the strength of senior public sector employment agreements, this will be just another nasty surprise. And it won’t go down well with less senior public servants on standard agreements facing retrenchment from various departments now (in Health) and in any change of government as far lesser benefits.”

Believe it or not, it’s Bob. And they’re already throwing grenades in the Queensland election, a couple of months out from the March 24 poll. We came across this video on YouTube, no doubt uploaded by vested interests, attacking Bob Katter’s Australia Party and one of his candidates, ex-cricketer Carl Rackemann. Bob and Carl have apparently promised the good people of the Nanango electorate, Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s old haunt, hundreds of kilometres of brand-new highways connecting major centres — at a cost of billions of dollars.

With independent MP Dorothy Pratt retiring, the seat is very much up for grabs. Nationals forces want the heartland back, and Labor needs it to govern, so they’re both scared of a potential win for Rackemann, a popular figure who helped Queensland to its first and long-awaited Sheffield Shield win in 1995. The attack video is set to the strains of Believe It Or Not

Subs put off at News Limited. News Central, the in-house subbing hub at Holt St, has offered voluntary redundancy to at least three senior subeditors, all of whom have been there since at least the 1980s. Other subs have been invited to express an interest in voluntary redundancy and have done so, but they’ll have to wait in the meantime. Word is there will be no forced redundancies. Our insider, a senior sub who doesn’t want to go any time soon, is most relieved about that.

Macquarie University’s IT collapse. OK, we can’t talk. But a major IT meltdown at Macquarie University is causing angst for students. Deputy vice-chancellor Deidre Anderson offered humble apologies yesterday afternoon:

Dear student

As you will be aware, we have experienced severe technical difficulties with eStudent over the past 36 hours, which meant many students had difficulty accessing the system and organising their timetable. I apologise unreservedly for the inconvenience this has caused and the additional stress created by this failure.

We anticipated increased demand on our systems and prepared for it: we had a high-performance grid available and engineers on site around the clock. Despite this, we experienced a number of critical system failures. None of these failures took the system offline for long, but to prevent further incidents we had to reduce the number of students able to access it at any one time.

Although the personal experience for students has been unacceptable, the system continues to process class changes, more than 48,000 as at 9.45 this morning.

We do not know what went wrong. We are investigating all aspects of the process to identify the problem and will continue to do so until we isolate it and fix it. I will ensure that this does not happen again.

Many of you have also voiced your concerns over this issue, and they have been heard. I have also met with student representatives this morning to discuss what has occurred and we have agreed upon these immediate action points:

  • that eStudent should remain open to accept class changes for those students who have not yet finalised their timetable
  • that students who are unable to access eStudent and who have special circumstances which require urgent timetable finalisation can call HELP on 02 9850 4357 or email help@mq.edu.au between 8am and 8pm
  • that open and transparent communications with students continue via email, Facebook, the Macquarie website, ask.mq.edu.au, OneHelp and other communication channels that students prefer

Once again, I apologise for the problems you have encountered.

Regards,

Deidre Anderson
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Students and Registrar

DFAT reminisces about better times. What sort of message is the Department of Foreign Affairs telling the world about Australia? On its “Australia Today” page, the DFAT website states:

“The Australian economy performed solidly in 2002-03. In contrast with weaker global conditions, Australia’s economy was one of the strongest in the developed world, recording 2.7 per cent growth. The outlook remains positive for increased growth in future.”

Actually, with what’s happened to the economy since, perhaps it’s better to leave it …

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