Taking it to the top, if only to stop the death metal: This tipster got in touch in response to our ‘Forty days of protest’ tip from yesterday, which asked if police would be called in should the protesters swell in numbers and vitriol. In this case, the tipster has reported behaviour to the police:

“I live on Devonshire St, Surry Hills and we also have a clinic.  A double whammy as we are around the corner from Randle St, Surry Hills. I appreciate the very difficult decision the woman and/or couples that go to the clinics are making and believe that as long as the law allows abortion they deserve not to be harassed.  Play the ball and not the man I say. If you don’t agree, then protest to parliament, don’t harass people. Unfortunately the 40 day people target Randle St mercilessly and we have another group plus a resident nutter who stands outside the Devonshire St clinic with a sandwich board displaying fetuses and the slogan “this clinic dismembers babies”. I make it my task to fight with this vile woman daily. A few weeks back I witnessed her attempting to stop a mother and her young daughter from entering the clinic. Needless to say it ended in tears and yelling.  A minister also organises large groups for singing and prayer every Saturday. The clinic are not without humour however and have a loudspeaker playing heavy metal out the front for the benefit of the protesters. We have complained without result to both the council and the police who say they are powerless. You can bet I’d be moved along quickly if I stalked someone daily like these people do.  The police say they need reports of intimidation and harassment.  They have however taken a statement from us and our neighbours, and advise they are seeking to take the matter to the Supreme Court. Let’s hope. Not sure I can stand too much more death metal.”

We’ll be following up with the tipster, who was kind enough to leave their details.

Neighbourwood watch, the Balmain chapter: ‘Anon’ confesses that they’re nervous about going off the record since Monday’s Media Watch episode, but we promise not to spill the beans on our eagle-eyed source, who admits “this may not qualify as a tip, but rather the reporting of a suburban curiosity.” Anon reports that “for several weeks there has been an AFP police car parked daily outside, or occasionally opposite” a building in Darling street, Balmain. Anon continues, “… the complex frontage consists of two shops for lease and a frock shop. Upstairs used to be a restaurant, but now seems empty. There are, or were, other shops in the arcade within the building. I have been reluctant to explore the interior as it would mean passing the uniformed officer/officers standing by the doorway. About a week ago I was passing by and as the two officers outside were looking extremely bored I asked the more senior of them what brought the AFP to sleepy old Balmain. He told me that he was not at liberty to discuss that. Naturally my curiosity was piqued. It clearly isn’t an undercover operation, their cars are bright red and gaily decorated with yellow stripes and a checkered strip. Nor however can it be a cheap operation, tying up a car and at least one officer full time. So what devilment … could be taking place in Balmain?” asks our tipster. They have a theory: “I know Balmain used to be known as a haunt of lefties, radicals, and unreliable filmmakers but that is now changed, or at least changing. Your neighbours are now more likely to be involved in high finance, posh retail, medicine or the law. Respectable to a fault. So they are unlikely to be under observation, perhaps more likely protection and preservation. I can’t think of a rational explanation, and I wonder about the expense — particularly if this is going on in middle class suburbs all over Sydney. So I’m giving you the tip in case some fearless reporter feels like taking it up and revealing the truth …”

Flicking the switch on QF12 hysteria: regarding QF12’s APU shutdown tip yesterday — our nervous flyer reported that “QF12 (A380) arrived in Sydney yesterday morning at the gate and immediately lost its APU [auxiliary power unit, for those not up with aviation lingo] on arrival at the gate (before the aerobridge was connected). It was silent and pitch dark for approximately two minutes before power was restored.” But this tipster explains — “the APU isn’t used in the air. Its only purpose is to run power and air conditioning for the plane when its main engines aren’t running and ground power isn’t available. When the main engines are running, each engine is independently capable of controlling the whole aircraft. It’d take a lot more than ‘a switch miss-hit’ to shut it down in flight. It’s always tempting to believe that any aircraft malfunction, however trivial, is critical for safety. To those who buy-in to such speculation, I’d pose the question: ‘Why would they design airliners like that?'”

A potted history lesson: This isn’t a tip off … more a bit of history that, despite the incessant coverage of the original Rudd sacking, everyone seems to have missed. Some time in the seventies, a failing NSW Premier Lewis was summarily sacked by his cabinet and caucus. The thief in the night was Eric Willis who became Premier without any apparent concern by the populace, the media or anyone else that an elected Premier had been snuck up on and the voters had been denied their revenge. Can’t help wondering if all this breast beating would have occurred if the prime minister had been a Tory.

Biscuitgate — the people have spoken. And spoken, and spoken and spoken: Talk bout a red-hot issue  — we asked for tales of tight arse kitchen supplies in the public service, and boy did you tattle. We received so much feedback in fact, that we’ve had to sort you lot into bullet points:

  • Human Services got tea and coffee? The federal department I work for is generous enough to provide boiling water for staff, but not a granule of Blend 43 more. One day I might be showered with the fat cat largesse I’m supposed to be enjoying, but it’s teabags from home until then I suppose!
  • Not only did the former Department of Human Services in Victoria appear to mandate the gradual withdrawal of Nescafe Blend 43 in favour of the shocking (but cheap) International Roast in mid-noughties, but at one point there was ONLY Arrowroot biscuits on hand — the chocolate-tastic Family Assorted made a comeback at one point, but supply was sadly inconsistent.
  • Your ABC doesn’t provide tea or coffee. And certainly not biscuits. Victorian government agency Sustainability Victoria, darling of the previous Labor government, provides tea, coffee, hot chocolate, milk, biscuits and fruit.
  • NSW Health cut off bickies (Family Assorted), then sugar, tea and coffee to our hospital department in the early ’90s.
  • About 15 years ago, working for a prominent NSW government department that was taking a daily pounding in the media over some complex issues, we decided to invite some journos into head office for a few hours’ briefing. I had to supply all the necessary comestibles myself.
  • I remember back when Enterprise Agreements were first brought in, an agreement was made on my behalf (without consulting me!) that milk, for tea and coffee, would no longer be supplied for free. This was in an administrative section in a hospital (which bought lots of milk, anyway). However, half the staff in the office were members of the nurses union, and they were still entitled to free milk!  So we all got free milk, anyway. I have always bought my own instant coffee and sweetener.
  • I have worked in the public service for 25 years and up until recently always contributed to a “tea” fund to pay for our tea and coffee. We also had a nice woman that would come and clean the 21 kitchens (it’s a big building).  But recently they cancelled the “tea” fund and sacked the woman. Miraculously the tea and coffee still appears — apparently free, but we wash our own cups now. Apparently it was cheaper to provide the tea and coffee than it was to administer the tea fund and hire a person to clean.
  • Re: government budget tight-arsery, the hot water is off in most Queensland government buildings in the Brisbane CBD. Why? Too much was being wasted. And no free tea, coffee or milk. And definitely no biscuits!

And ha ha, who slipped this through the tips box? Caramel Crowns … the public service should be so lucky, you ingrates … Which leading independent online media organisation has embarked a savage cost-cutting policy banning cupcakes for birthdays and only ordering delectable Caramel Crowns on very rare occasions? When they do appear, the Crowns (and the mint slices for that matter) are quickly snaffled by greedy senior journalists and editors.

Peter Fray

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