PSst! Strange ways

By The Mandarin

Thursday June 10, 2021

ray strange-derryn hinch-andrew meares
Derryn Hinch (centre) speaks to Fairfax photographer Andrew Meares (right) and News Limited photographer Ray Strange (left). (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)


Transparent and avoided

It may be arcane for some folks, but the Financial Reporting Council plays an important part in overseeing the Australian Accounting Standards Board and the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board. The meetings of the FRC were in-camera until March this year following a landmark decision by the council itself to fling its doors open.

The Mandarin wondered who managed to jimmy that door open. Former PricewaterhouseCoopers partner Bill Edge steered the idea through the FRC and Federal Treasury. Edge’s initiative in getting the body to talk about issues of transparent reporting is yet to produce a massive crowd – it managed to get 19 people with only one person from the media in attendance for its June meeting.

At least that’s a start.

Time to pay the rent

The Department of Parliamentary Services has notified lease holders of press gallery bureaus that they will have to start paying rent again. Rents were suspended last year at the height of the pandemic due to numbers being limited in each office. The parliamentary press gallery, already hugely depleted through years as a redundancies and media shake-up, began to resemble a ghost town thanks to COVID-19.

But now with things transitioning back to ‘normal’ post-pandemic, so too are the licence fees. DPS has alerted leaseholders that rents will be reintroduced in increments from July 1 and be at 100% by January next year.

DPS is also putting an end to the practice of sub-letting bureau space. It seems while all bureaus had their rents lifted, some leaseholders (just a handful of particularly nasty ones) kept charging smaller media outlets who rent desks and space in their offices on a sub-lease arrangement. So DPS has – rightly – put an end to it all, saying the space can still be let, but everyone must deal directly with DPS.

(*Just a note on that … Private Media, owners of The Mandarin … are currently sub-tenants in a parliament house press gallery bureau and have been treated correctly and very fairly by the main leaseholder.)

CPSU and Labor

We have heard recently of some confusion about whether the CPSU is affiliated with the Australian Labor Party. It is. It’s a union. It’s the Community and Public Sector Union. Nothing wrong with its connection to Labor. Some of its past leaders have gone on to be Labor MPs – such as Stephen Jones, the current federal Member for Whitlam, who was formerly the CPSU national secretary.

Being affiliated with Labor hasn’t always meant that the union is kind to Labor governments. Former national secretary Nadine Flood was quite critical at times of the Rudd and Gillard governments over public service caps, cuts, conditions and wages.

But it seems current national secretary of CPSU Melissa Donnelly is not so keen to promote the Labor association. Her media team has recently been requesting (demanding even) that her membership of the federal Labor Party executive not be reported. But we here at The Mandarin try hard to avoid any such confusion. So, in case you didn’t already know, now you do. It’s a good union … and like most unions, it has a Labor connection.

Bob who?

Legendary songsmith Bob Dylan turned 80 recently. The Mandarin has just heard about one team leader in a sizeable communications division of a public service agency who tried to celebrate the event. They good-naturedly invited the team in the immediate pod to honour His Bobness’s birthday with a morning cuppa toast. To their absolute surprise, the request was met with bewilderment and blank stares – and not just from the 20-somethings in the team. Seems no one knew who Dylan was. The times they are a changin’.

So, with Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts also turning 80 recently, we went in search of any public service attempts to mark that occasion. Couldn’t find one. You can’t always get what you want.

Farewell Ray

Speaking of legends. We will end this column on a somewhat sombre note… but with a bit of a giggle too.

Legendary news photographer Ray Strange was farewelled on Wednesday at a memorial service in Sydney. Ray passed away on May 28 following complications from a stroke he suffered in January. Ray snapped prime ministers, presidents and royalty – as well as hordes of public servants – over the past few decades. His photographs are part of the Australian psyche. Perhaps his most famous was the one revealing John Howard wearing a bullet-proof vest while, as a new prime minister, he was addressing a gun rally in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre.

Such was the esteem in which Ray was held that both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese recently paid beautiful and respectful tributes to him in parliament.

At the memorial service on Wednesday, the big names in media flocked to the Unity Hall Hotel in Balmain. Many coming from Canberra. Past and current political photographers and reporters turned up in strength to pay their respects. So did more than a few public servants and advisers. They all joined in with other friends and family to farewell their mate and colleague. Ray was loved and highly respected.

And just to make sure he was given a fitting send-off, a couple of dozen turned up late, during the opening song being piped through the room, and began to loudly greet the others and talk about Ray. Much to the celebrant’s horror, they got louder. They didn’t seem to know the service had begun. The celebrant asked for the song to be played again and for the service to start over. The rabble soon settled, but not before one was heard to say: “Ray would have loved this!”. And he would have. RIP Ray Strange.  

Ray Strange
Farewell, friend. Ray Strange. (Image: Alex Ellinghausen)


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