Heartland Anonymous Donor revealed. Crikey yesterday reported The New York Times would today reveal the “anonymous donor” of the Heartland Institute — an individual who has given over US$13 million since 2007. The Times didn’t, but here’s a hot tip: Chicago industrialist Barre Seid. You can read all about Seid, a highly conservative and but publicity shy man, in this Daily Kos article which speculates over whether he may be the donor. Several sources have told Crikey he is indeed the man — The Times apparently didn’t run it today because it’s President’s Day and therefore a public holiday.

In other interesting Heartland news, the person who leaked the Heartland Institute documents to media outlets has just outed themselves. Well-known climate scientist and Huffington Post blogger Peter H Gleick just admitted that “in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name. My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved.”

HuffPo Oz coming soon (after India). Speaking of Arianna Huffington’s online giant, now that The Huffington Post has launched in France insiders tell us an Australian beachhead is not too far away. India is expected to launch next, with an Australian site later in the year. The company was advertising for an Australian editor last year.

Battle on for Hulls’ Victorian seat. The departure of former Victorian deputy premier Rob Hulls from the seat of Niddrie pits five candidates against each other for preselection, including solicitor Sebastian Agricola, long-time ALP hack Ben Carroll and more recent member (and Hulls staffer) Jaclyn Symes. An (clearly biased) insider reports on the preselection tussle: “Sebastian Agricola was streams ahead but as it is a right-wing seat he should have joined the Right months ago and would now be a sure thing. But Symes is the issue. Worked for Hulls for four years before then deciding to join the ALP less than two years ago. Hulls was a poor local member and she promises nothing better.” Ouch.

Gloomy assessments of Wesfarmers business. Yesterday, Fairfax business reporter Adele Ferguson described retail conglomerate Wesfarmers’ results delivered last week as “a disturbingly low return on invested capital”. A couple of market watchers were whispering the same thing to us. “Too much self-belief,” said one of Wesfarmers management, persisting with a model that “worked in a boom market from the mid-’90s until recently — as with all other conglomerates, the model just does not work in gloom markets.”

“Problem for Wesfarmers is they were naively arrogant enough to think they were different/better than the rest. As anyone who has met and/or had dealings with the Wesfarmers team will tell you, they have always been a very average bunch of people. The Coles takeover was a case in point — when the WES team arrived, they knew nothing about Coles, but treated the incumbents as if they knew nothing about supermarket retailing. Pride comes before a fall.”

Another watcher doubted the turnaround of Coles supermarkets and the expertise of imported directors:

“Truth be known, Coles is not running well and is nowhere near a successful turnaround. Wesfarmers are paying absolute top dollar for UK execs who do the same job as locals who were made redundant — and they don’t do it any better. Coles has not introduced one new initiative since WES took over. All that has happened is the new UK crew have just adopted the projects that the old Aussie Coles management team developed. When you pay too much for a business and then pay too much for people to run it who don’t do a better job, you are bound to get into trouble.”

Hundreds of staff go in VET cuts. An education insider reckons up to 1000 jobs were shed last year from the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector. Crikey is monitoring layoffs under its Sackwatch banner and has been told to take a closer look at TAFEs and private registered training organisations. They report:

“The TAFE  and private RTOs parts has shrunk because of reduced government funding and reduced demand. At the end of 2011 (I believe) Box Hill TAFE made 70 teachers redundant; Holmesglen made 50 redundant (but only 22 were teachers); William Angliss Institute made 30 redundant (20 volunteered); Victoria University TAFE made 30 redundant; Chisolm TAFE certainly made some redundant (I was on some interview panels) but I do not know how many.

“There is no reason to believe the others are different: South West Institute of TAFE, Kangan Batman, NMIT, RMIT (TAFE), BRIT (Bendigo), GOTAFE (Gippsland Ovens), Gordon (Geelong), Sunraysia, Ballarat University (TAFE), Gippsland TAFE and East Gippsland TAFE. My employer Swinburne (TAFE) did not make anyone redundant. They just did two things: did not renew 12-month contracts (the poor sods do not get a redundancy package) and reduced the number of sessional (casual staff). I suspect the private sector was far worse because many RTOs have just stopped trading. I suspect there has been little change with enterprise RTOs.”

Has your company put off staff? Have you heard of other layoffs? Drop us a line or use the anonymous form.

Melbourne fliers lose in Qantas cuts. There’s a sting in the tail regarding the recent Qantas’ recent announcement it was ending a daily Auckland-to-Los Angeles service. “It means that Melbourne passengers drop from two to one daily flights to LA,” our plane-watcher notes. “QF25, which went via Auckland to LA, will be no more from May 6. A search of Qantas schedules before May 6 shows two Melb-LA flights a day, after shows just one.”