Aung San Suu Kyi loads up on gongs. Myanmar freedom activist Aung San Suu Kyi arrives in Australia next month and she’ll be packing honorary doctorates for the return trip. Crikey hears that “just about every university in Sydney” is offering a gong to the celebrated world figure. Which uni would she prefer a certificate from?
In Melbourne it’s a little more civilised: the Australia Myanmar Institute has extended an invitation for a trip south on behalf of the Melbourne City Council and Deakin University for November 29-30, intended to be a “whole of Melbourne” invite. Though Melbourne University may be planning its own rival event. We do know Suu Kyi is expected to visit the Burnet Institute on December 1.
Red letter day: rural Oz Post service cuts. We’d heard Australia Post intends to reduce services for a ring of non-metropolitan towns in New South Wales. Turns out its true: while emphasising the proposal is “barely in discussion stages”, a spokeswoman for Oz Post told Crikey there “will be a change” in order to keep Australia Post afloat now that customers are dropping by 20% a year (1 billion fewer letters over five years). The communiqué from Oz Post to the Communication Workers Union flags losses of local letter sorting facilities in 12 towns.
Instead, letters from the Victorian towns will all be sorted in Dandenong and in major centres in NSW — adding a day to delivery times. A letter posted in Ballarat for a recipient in the same town will travel to Dandenong to be sorted before being delivered back to Ballarat. But parcels will still be sorted locally. Apparently Australia Post is currently exceeding community service obligations and going above and beyond their obligations for people living just outside Melbourne. Hence the cutbacks.
Meanwhile, the CWU has launched a petition and spoken to media — an offence that has landed them at Fair Work Australia for a hearing later today for breaching the obligation of the union to “support workplace changes”. According to the Oz Post spokeswoman: “Australia Post met with union representatives recently to discuss the continuing challenges for our mail business, which lost more than $185 million in the last financial year. Regardless of the final impact, no employee will be forced to take a redundancy and no facilities will close.”
Writers party with Brandis in Melbourne. A packed room of writers, low-grade celebrities and a ragtag selection of media types and hangers-on gathered at Melbourne’s moodily lit Plaza Ballroom last Friday night for the Australian Writers’ Guild’s annual Awgie awards. The occasion was specially marked by the creation of the David Williamson Prize to recognise excellence in playwriting. The award went to a now $25-grand richer Alana Valentine, but in a sense it went to Williamson himself: the towering scribe of Don Parties On, the 2011 production memorably torn apart by Crikey editor Jason Whittaker (“a cruise of Titanic disaster … Williamson now fails his own standards”), was given a gushing, living-wake style eulogy by Attorney-General and federal Arts Minister, George Brandis.
After opening his speech by predicting that most of those present in the room almost certainly did not vote for the Coalition, Brandis heaped praise on Australia’s play-to-the-back-rows theatre tsar, describing him “as, dare I say it, Australia’s greatest playwright.” The A-G was later spotted participating in selfies and cautiously hobnobbing in between entrée and main. But there was no dominating the dance floor for Brandis, who left shortly after host Sammy J wrapped up the evening with a closing night ditty. Crikey‘s own Guy Rundle won the Fred Parsons Award for long-term service to comedy; he thanked Brandis for attending “even though he’s under the impression he’s currently at a bar mitzvah two doors down”.
Gay divorce: it’s already happening. As Crikey reported last week on the ACT marriage legislation, it’s not so much gay unions where the legal complications lie — it’s in gay divorce. In Queensland, where a form of civil unions is allowed, a Crikey mole inside the Family Court reports: “I know for a fact that there has been one same-sex divorce since 2009. This is in the Brisbane registry.”