From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Civilian road block chaos. Earlier this month Victoria Police controversially forced drivers to form a road block on the Hume Freeway to help stop a teenager driver speeding in a stolen car. A bunch of civilian drivers were stopped — including an L-plater high school student and a man with two young children in the back — and the car thief smashed into the blockade and was arrested. No one was injured and the Chief Commissioner said police had not followed proper procedure and ordered a review into the incident. But this isn’t a new idea, says one police watcher:

“It was not the first time this practice has been conducted. The exact same strategy was used in Russia in 2010 and Belarus in 2008. Both incidents ended exactly the same as in Victoria with the pursed driver crashing into the roadblock. You can watch the video on YouTube. It is eerily similar to what happened in Victoria, even the police response to the bizarre tactic is the same. This raises the question of how much the police (especially senior police) were aware of this tactic and its outcome and how much they had studied it before implementing it. I think a reasonable person would assume that the police have heavily investigated pursuit strategies and this use of an extension on the “rolling roadblock”, which also essentially uses drivers as human shields by purposefully slowing the traffic in front of a pursued vehicle, was known to police. I think you also have to consider that if after a five minute internet search anyone can find the exact same failed strategy being used in two infamous police states that the police were also well aware of its potential consequences but went with it anyway. In Belarus, two of the police involved were sentenced to two years’ jail. In Russia, the commanding sergeant was arrested, but I couldn’t find out what happened to him. I think you have to consider that they were scapegoats for a failed strategy. The “rolling roadblock” according to US policing procedures takes a lot of co-ordination. They use it to protect road workers. If that is the case then somebody with reasonably high police authority must have been co-ordinating the human shield roadblock in Melbourne. The command would not have come from police at the scene. It wouldn’t have been a spur of the moment rash decision in an unpredictable unfolding situation.”

Visy’s no confirmation actually a confirmation? Last Friday we flagged in tips that 300 people were apparently losing their jobs at paper giant Visy. We’ve still received no reply from their chief spinner and tried contacting him again this morning to no avail. You’d think if it was wrong, they would have contacted us …

Sinking news for Melbourne Aquarium. In other redundancy news, theme park owners Merlin Entertainment recently took over Living and Leisure Australia for a tidy $140 million and it’s been quick at cutting costs at its new acquisition Melbourne Aquarium. A dozen staff were laid off last week and it “was quite a shock to those involved”, said one insider.

Melbourne Aquarium sent us as wonderful corporate-speak statement, with this key line confirming the cuts (although declining to name a figure):

“Since the acquisition was completed, we have reviewed the future direction of the business to maximise its potential and ensure its on-going growth in line with that of the wider Merlin business. Regrettably this has meant that some positions at Melbourne Aquarium are no longer required and we have consulted with those employees affected.”

A friendly staffer told Crikey that it wasn’t a dozen who were laid off, but “it was a bit more than a few”. Clear as mud.

No tea and coffee for ABC staffers. After ABC took the crown as the country’s best work-life balance employer last week, we asked what it was really like to work for Aunty. One ex-employee isn’t handing out any awards (either to the ABC or the profession of journalism):

“I worked as a journo for the ABC in South Australia for a couple of years. As far as I can tell, it was a hell of a lot better than working at the competition (the Tiser). But I’d start at 5am, and finish after 1pm — fairly decent working hours, if there were no massive stories breaking — and you just didn’t take a lunch break. There was nowhere to take one. You started, and bulletins happened every hour or half-hour until you finished, and then you left. The couple of times I did dare eat food outside for 10 minutes I got stared at. I don’t know how well that fits in with a work-life balance. It was altogether a decent job, and I mostly enjoyed working with everyone there, except for frequently attracting the wrath of a notoriously grumpy presenter. But I wouldn’t laud it as one of the best places to work in Australia, because journalism isn’t all that enjoyable a job in general. Who wants to work 5am starts, 14 days straight, for a low salary? Who wants to go to work and hope to god they packed spare undies in the car in case they get sent to a fire in the country for four days? Your career options are pretty limited too — a few rookies would start up in the country, hoping to be offered a spot in Adelaide, but would just get stuck out in the sticks indefinitely. Also, that story today about Queensland Premier Newman slashing tea and coffee? I didn’t even know companies do that for staff until I started working at my current job, and got laughed at when I asked whose milk was in the fridge. The ABC’s budget was too small.”

We know there are thousands more ex and current ABC employees among our Crikey readers. Drop us a line or send your tip anonymously. Don’t worry, we won’t tell boss Mark Scott.

The AFP Balmain diaries. One day we report the AFP cars have disappeared from Balmain, the next day they are apparently back. But the Syrian Consulate — apparently the target of the AFP watch — is gone, says one Balmain bug:

“The AFP have indeed vanished from Darling Street in Balmain. So also has the Syrian Consulate it seems as apartment 13, their old office, is now for lease. Have they just moved elsewhere? Or have they returned to Syria now that Assad is firmly in control and his version of peace reigns? Or so he tells us repeatedly as bombs and gunfire continue, always of course the evil doings of foreign troublemakers.”

*Do you know more? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed-anonymous form.

Peter Fray

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