“If you see a croc and you’re concerned about it, ring the department and complain.” You mean, as opposed to catching a problematic 1.7-metre saltie from a community dam and taking it home? It’s advice a Proserpine fisherman is probably reflecting on, even if some locals think he’s a legend…
TIME CHECK ON AUSTRALIA POST
“I was appalled. It’s disgraceful. And it’s not on,” was PM Scott Morrison’s reaction to the discovery yesterday that Australia Post’s CEO Christine Holgate and then chairman John Stanhope approved the purchase of Cartier watches worth $12,000 on a work credit card. Given as a reward to 4 executives at the government business enterprise in 2018, the timepieces were a thank you for work on a deal with the banks. Not so thankful was the government… Holgate was stood aside, the board put under review, and an urgent investigation was launched into whether they acted ethically and adhered to the expenditure guidelines.
THEM’S SOME FANCY WATCHES…
And $3,000 is entry-level when it comes to Cartier. But we digress… The revelation came in response to a question from Labor Senator Kimberly Kitching at a Senate Estimates hearing yesterday morning. (To recap: that’s when our upper house representatives get an opportunity to grill government departments, agencies and organisations like AusPost on their work, spending and conduct.) The purchase of the luxury items was a surprise, including to government ‘shareholder’, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher. Angering the government further, Holgate (who was sporting a speccie watch of her own…) did not acknowledge that it was taxpayers money being spent. “We are a commercial organisation,” she said. Yeah, nah said PM Morrison, AusPost belongs to “the Australian people”.
HOW’S IT GONE DOWN?
Look, not great. Labor spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said “Australia Post is a cherished national institution and it must set a high standard.” And that standard has been breached, she said. But it’s not just about the watches… Already in focus because of its notoriously/relatively high executive salaries and its Liberal Party-heavy board, a decision to give 2,500 senior managers $60 million in bonuses in the past year has been criticised as service levels fall. Defending the payments yesterday, executive Susan Davies said “I absolutely believe that our communities would feel that this organisation has served the community and Australia.” The clock’s ticking on that assessment…
SQUIZ THE REST
CALL FOR SHAKE UP CLOSES AGED CARE ROYAL COMMISSION
After 2 years, hearings around the country, 10,203 public submissions, and evidence from 641 witnesses who told their often harrowing stories, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will today hold its final hearing. In its final week, Commissioners have received 124 recommendations from the inquiry’s lawyers urging big reforms to the system including a new Aged Care Act protecting the rights of older people. They also want to see mandated staffing ratios, the registration of workers and a new independent watchdog. Underlining the need for massive changes to the system, the counsel assisting the Commission said an estimated 50 sexual assaults occur in aged care facilities nationwide every week. “This is a national shame,” Peter Rozen said. Commissioners will now review the evidence and report to the government by 26 February next year.
CORONAVIRUS FLARE UP IN NORTHERN MELBOURNE
Health officials in Melbourne are bracing for an outbreak of coronavirus in the city’s northern suburbs. There are currently 16 active cases across 6 different households, and about 500 primary and secondary contacts have been asked to self-isolate for 2 weeks after an infected schoolboy attended school. Reports say a misunderstanding led to him to go to school on Monday after other members of his household had been allowed to leave isolation. Two days later, he tested positive to the virus. Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday said he didn’t think it would stop the lifting of some restrictions on Sunday. Meanwhile, Victorian Police have defended the use of drones in monitoring crowd numbers in public places, but confirmed they would not be peeking into private spaces tomorrow arvo ahead of the AFL grand final. “We are not going to have drones hovering above pizza ovens in people’s backyards,” said Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius. “They can fly drones over my place because no one will be doing anything wrong,” Andrews said.
GET YOUR EAR PLUGS READY...
…because if you’re planning on watching the presidential debate at noon (AEDT) today, you may need them. There are new microphone protocols in place (ie the candidate’s mic will be turned off if they aren’t scheduled to be talking), so what could possibly go wrong? The format’s the same as last time and will see the septuagenarians cover 6 topics in 15-minute intervals. With less than 2 weeks until the election, and Biden leading in most national polls, it could be an informative exercise. Meanwhile, America’s top national security officials yesterday said Iran is behind threatening emails sent to Democratic Party supporters. Claiming to be sent by the far-right Proud Boys group (who featured in the first debate), National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe said they aimed to “intimidate voters, incite unrest and damage” President Donald Trump. Analysts say the disclosure highlights officials’ concerns over voting interference and disinformation campaigns from foreign actors. Also concerned about disclosure – media company CBS. It’s not happy Trump has released footage of his uncomfortable interview with 60 Minutes ahead of its air time on Sunday night. Trump says the interviewer Lesley Stahl showed “bias, hatred and rudeness”.
A 2016 deposition given by British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell on the late billionaire financier and convicted sexual abuser Jeffrey Epstein has been released overnight after she lost a legal fight to suppress it this week. The 58yo, who is in detention awaiting trial in July next year over her part in an alleged sex trafficking ring, says she never witnessed “inappropriate underage activities” by him. The deposition was given during a defamation lawsuit brought by Virginia Giuffre. She alleges she was abused by Epstein and his friends, including Prince Andrew, after being procured by Maxwell in the early 2000s. Andrew is not mentioned in the heavily redacted document, but Maxwell admits to organising massages for the billionaire. “She’s the one who I believe, in my heart of hearts, deserves to come forward and have justice happen to her more than anybody,” Giuffre said earlier this year. Maxwell, who faces 35 years in prison, has pleaded not guilty to the charges against her.
Fan or not so much, the AFL and NRL grand finals will be a big feature of the weekend. To the Aussie Rules first, it’s the first time it’s been played outside of Melbourne with Brissie’s Gabba playing host to defending premiers/favourites, the Richmond Tigers, and the Geelong Cats on Saturday night. It’s the Cats’ high achieving Gary Ablett Jr’s last game after a challenging season, so there’s your talking point… And for Sunday night’s NRL finals from Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, first up is the women’s final with the Brisbane Broncos favourites to win against the Sydney Roosters. And in the men’s, it’s the Penrith Panthers v Melbourne Storm. The Storm are the favourites, with captain Cameron Smith keeping fans on edge about whether it’s his last outing. He’s going to “do some thinking,” he said yesterday. May your team do well. And if you don’t have a team, may the footy franks be warm and the tomato sauce plentiful…
FRIDAY LITES - THREE THINGS WE LIKED THIS WEEK
Unpicking the meaning behind the mysterious lyrics of Don McLean’s American Pie. One journo tried…
“More is more, and whoever made up ‘less is more’ is full of it!” Dolly Parton, who goes through her ‘best glam-country moments’ with Vogue, will never go out of style.
Our favourite edamame dip – it’s back. Whatever you’re doing this weekend, you’ll find a spot for it. So good…