Willesee only making friends at Seven. No truth to the rumours — started, no doubt, by rabble-rousing TV rivals — that there’s tension in the offices of Channel Seven’s Sunday Night program. Veteran newsman Michael Willesee may have swanned in from retirement to conduct a headline-grabbing interview with Julia Gillard, with more good gets to come, but resident investigative reporter Ross Coulthart isn’t miffed. Coulthart was quick to knock the rumour on the head, calling to assure us there’s “more than enough room for the two of us”. Willesee “very kindly gave me a gig as a producer” when Coulthart was starting out, and describes the former Nine star as “one of the most generous blokes I know”.

Executive producer Mark Llewellyn — another Nine refugee who has gone on to thump his old network in the ratings — told us Willesee has a “corker yarn in the works” without giving details. He says adding another ex-A Current Affair host to the roster (along with Mike Munro) has been a big coup for the fledgling show, which is currently making hay in the ratings while 60 Minutes is on a break. More bad news for the ageing stopwatch on Nine.

Queen Mary cruised into TV news. An eagle-eyed TV watcher writes:

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Media Watch — or better, the management of ABC News and Current Affairs — should take a look at the last item before the weather in the 7pm NSW ABC News on Tuesday night, the story about the ‘marry me’ banner draped all over the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship that sailed into Sydney on Valentine’s Day. The report featured the person who put the banner up and his girlfriend and showed them looking at the boat and the sign from the shores of Sydney Harbour. Nothing wrong with that. But what was the small Line “Cunard vision” doing in the top left of the picture, just after the report started? Cunard owns the QM2. Did it provide all the vision for the report, or arrange with ABC News to do something together? While just another ‘marry me’ stunt story, there was a large amount of publicity for the QM2 (which would normally get coverage anyway).”

Jones on the outer for gay stance? Yesterday we carried news that federal Labor MP Stephen Jones was under pressure from inside his own branch for backing gay marriage. NSW MP Noreen Hay pushed a motion through the branch enshrining marriage between a man and a woman last year and, according to our insider, was now working to have Jones dis-endorsed as a candidate for the (scheduled) 2013 poll. We asked Hay whether that was true and she responded after deadline: “No.” Let the record state this succinct response.

Rudd in secret Abbott deal for UN! We present the most bizarre Kevin Rudd rumour yet received — and there’s plenty to chose from — here at Crikey: “Rudd has an agreement with Abbott to bring down Gillard in exchange for his support for Rudd’s diplomatic aspirations at the UN!” We report, you decide.

JA push-polling Bennelong voters. “Understanding the issues which are important to you is a significant part of my job as your Member of Parliament,” writes handy tennis player turned Liberal MP John Alexander. He dispatched “Bennelong’s Biggest Survey” to residents recently, a copy of which found its way to Crikey‘s inbox:

But is JA doing some push-polling? One resident reckoned some of the questions were “outrageously skewed”. We’re not sure what they mean …

“Do you think Australia should have delayed imposing a carbon tax until there is a binding international agreement to ensure that Australians are not disadvantaged?”

“Do you think the Federal Government is right to continue to borrow more than $100 million each day, when Australia already has a record debt?”

“Should the Federal Government do more to support Senior Australians meet increases in living costs?”

“Should the Federal Government reduce taxes and red tape to support business and create jobs?”

“Do you think that some of the $37 billion from the Government’s National Broadband Network should be spent improving roads and infrastructure?”

Senior NSW bureaucrat quits department. Former NSW departmental head and senior executive inside the Department of Education and Communities, Carol Mills, has quit. We called Mills’ office to ask why she was departing but she was unavailable. Here’s the email dispatched from D-G Michele Bruniges:

From: Chief Executive Officer
Sent: Wednesday, 15 February 2012 11:09 AM
To: Chief Executive Officer
Subject: A message to all staff from the Director-General, Education and Communities


Dear Colleagues

I wish to inform you that Carol Mills is leaving the Department of Education and Communities on 17 February 2012.

Carol’s career in the NSW public service has spanned over 20 years during which time she has worked in senior executive roles across a broad range of areas including housing, disability services, the arts, sport and recreation and liquor and gaming.

The people of NSW have benefitted greatly from Carol’s achievements. Some of these include: driving major growth in the community housing sector; implementing new strategies to address homelessness; introducing significant service improvements for people with a disability; and implementing new community access options. She has also managed large capital works programs and attracted significant investment for NSW.

Carol has also represented NSW interests in Commonwealth /State negotiations including the renegotiation of the Home and Community Care Agreement, Commonwealth/State Disability Agreement and the Commonwealth /State Housing Agreement.

As Director-General of the Department of the Arts, Sport and Recreation and then Communities NSW, Carol led major regulatory reform focused on responsible liquor, gaming and racing practice, and she significantly increased participation in the arts, sport and recreation sectors through new approaches, while championing priorities for youth, volunteering and community engagement.

Most recently as Chief Executive of the Office of Communities within the NSW Department of Education and Communities, Carol has led important legislative reforms to establish the Venues NSW model for regional stadia. She has continued to facilitate opportunities for community engagement across NSW and remained an advocate for the interests of Aboriginal people, children, young people, volunteers and Veterans.

I wish Carol all the best in the future and thank her for the service she has provided to the people of NSW throughout her career.

I will email details of who will act in the position of Chief Executive, Office of Communities by the end of this week.

Kind Regards

Michele Bruniges AM

No job losses in government contract. We raised concerns earlier this week about a NSW government contract with US provider BMC to outsource departmental functions including call centre operations. Well the government confirms the deal between NSW Businesslink (a shared service supplier to the Department of Family and Community Services) and BMC, which will see a new software package installed “for use by internal staff when handling inquiries coming to its helpdesk”. But it’s denying it puts data security at risk and will see jobs lost.

“Community Services does not and is not planning to use this software package within its helpline or contact centre,” a departmental spokesperson told us. “No sensitive client information will be held by BMC or Businesslink through this package. There is no arrangement, nor any plan to move any call centre functions to BMC’s Indian centres.” Fair enough.

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