From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

PNG travel hitch. Relations between Australia and PNG are a little tense, what with us sending our asylum seekers to Manus Island, where they’re being killed and injured in violent circumstances. And from Saturday, all Australians will have to obtain a visa for PNG in advance (which is a real pain), while people from the US, western Europe, New Zealand and the Pacific can still get a visa on arrival in PNG. Now, why would that be? Here’s an email doing the rounds from a travel agency:


Papua New Guinea

Effective 1 March 2014 Australian nationals will no longer be able to obtain a visa on arrival.They must obtain a visa prior to entry.

All airlines operating flights to PNG have been ordered to deny boarding of Australians without a visa, and the carriers will be forced to pay for their repatriation on the next available flight, which may not necessarily be to the point of origin.

Australians can apply for a visa at the Papua New Guinea consulate offices in Sydney, Brisbane or Canberra. Travellers transiting through PNG for less than 8 hours do not require a visa, but must remain within the International Transit Lounges in airports. Tourist visa applications must be lodged at least two months prior to departure date, with Visa on Arrival still available for travellers from the US, western Europe, Pacific and NZ.

All affected travellers have been notified directly.

There’s been talk about changes to PNG’s visa rules since January, but some confusion around who would be affected (a government spokesman told the Australia Network the changes would mainly affect business visitors, and tourists could still get a visa on arrival — but it seems that’s wrong). Mind you, it’s a bit rich for Australians to complain. Is it still the case that anyone coming to Australia must obtain a visa in advance, except for New Zealanders?

Qantas watch #1: staff cuts. Qantas is in all sorts of trouble, with the feds considering helping out the national carrier with its borrowing and easing restrictions on foreign ownership. Qantas’ interim results are due out tomorrow, and there are rumours of 5000 job cuts. Here at Crikey we’re hearing some grumbles from staff …

“Qantas at Perth airport have been reducing staff on fleet presentation by half and cleaning [staff] on turn-around routes are only cleaning half the aircraft. Fleet staff are furious but can’t say or do anything. It is called ‘smart clean’ and has started about a week ago. Morale is at rock bottom and people would love to see the back of Alan Joyce and the board.”

Just one question. Which half of the plane is getting cleaned?

Qantas watch #2: stadium grumbles. Meanwhile, the Qantas Credit Union (a mutual association for staff) has inked a deal to sponsor the Sydney Entertainment Centre till late 2015 — and not everyone is happy. The Entertainment Centre, near Darling Harbour, was due to be demolished in late 2013, but the Qantas deal will keep it open for a few more years (a brand spanking new building is planned to replace it). This from an aviation type:

“Whilst the axe hangs over thousands of Qantas employees, the Qantas Credit Union, an alleged non-profit organisation formed for the benefit of the employees, has just sponsored the soon-to-be-demolished Sydney Entertainment Centre to the tune of a couple of million dollars. The retirees and staff members are not at all happy, as seems the decision was made without consulting them. The next AGM will be hostile to say the least. When asked what was in it for the members, a $10 discount may be available on Dolly Parton tickets was suggested, big deal.”

We’ve put that claim to the Credit Union and will keep you posted. And actually, Dolly Parton is a big deal.

Coalition lady-fest. Ms Tips is impressed to see so many women in the television shot on the Coalition side in parliamentary question time this week. Behind whoever’s speaking there are usually five people visible, and four are women — so the Coalition must be 80% female! But we checked, and no. Just 20% of lower-house Coalition MPs are women (the cabinet is 5% female). So the Liberals are filling their ranks with men, then parking the handful of women in front of the cameras. Are people falling for this little trick? This is the only shot of the Parliament people will see on their nightly television news …

Wanted: SA and Tassie insiders. Crikey scribes are working on stories profiling the people who will help decide the looming state elections in South Australia and Tasmania (both on March 15). Who do you think holds the power and influence behind the scenes in those two states? Who are the key figures the wannabe premiers would try to woo? And who is donating to the parties’ election campaigns? Email us your inside information …

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Peter Fray

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