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Regatta rows back on crowd ban

And lo and behold, on Saturday, Rowing Victoria held its Senior State Championship Regatta at Lake Nagambie in front of a large audience. Jaws dropped during the event when a senior member of the HOSG committee said it hadn’t received any complaints from members’ schools, which include Firbank and Melbourne Girls’ Grammar.

But after widespread condemnation and our item in CBD, the HOSG committee had a rethink and on Wednesday broke its silence to say it had accepted a plan from Rowing Victoria for a “limited number of spectators on the south bank of the Barwon River”.

“Limited number” in HOSG-speak is actually 1800 people. Spectator passes will be issued in proportion to school entry numbers. Happy days.

Council victory

Remember Stonington resident Denise Wallish, who starred in CBD last year after she was sprung on the streets of Prahan distributing election leaflets critical of councillors?

Wallish was spotted wearing a black Nike face mask letterboxing the street. A resident captured the incident on CCTV and alerted the then-mayor, who arrived with councillors to unmask the mystery pamphleteer, Scooby-Doo style.

Wallish, a former councillor turned community activist who received a ticking off from the Local Government Inspectorate over the incident, has been opposing the council in the Supreme Court over the planned development of a $26.7 million indoor sports stadium at Percy Treyvaud Memorial Park, right near her house. Council went to court to get some land covenants removed, but Wallish and a band of about 20 residents including Ratepayers Association president Dean Hurlston opposed the action.

Cue a three-day trial and hefty legal fees, and a resounding win for council. Associate Justice Mary-Jane Ierodiaconou ruled that the covenants were “obsolete” so the council is good to go on its redevelopment. But the newly elected council promised last year to review a range of sites for the indoor basketball and netball courts. Watch this space.

It pays the Billson

Small business has never been regarded as one of Parliament’s glamour portfolios, but one-time Liberal frontbencher Bruce Billson has proven the grunt work can really pay. In his new role as Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, the Turnbull-era small business minister will take home a hefty annual salary of $360,250. Not bad at all, particularly when Billson’s former cabinet colleagues take home an annual salary of only $283,750. And let’s remember that Billson – who retired from politics at the 2016 election – was hit with a rare, bipartisan censure motion by Parliament for failing to declare he’d scored a $75,000 role with the Franchise Council of Australia before leaving Parliament.

Former small business minister Bruce Billson.

Former small business minister Bruce Billson.Credit:John Shakespeare

Clearly all ancient history now. On Wednesday, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash praised the former Dunkley MP for his “valuable and unique perspective”.

Billson will have a role helping to “chart our pathway back to prosperity”. Speaking of which, consider the salaries the government is doling out thanks to the Remuneration Tribunal’s latest determination in January. The country’s best-paid mandarin is Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority chair Wayne Byres, who takes home $886,750, followed by Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims on $775,910 and Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue on $775,910. Services Australia boss Rebecca Skinner is paid $748,210. Commonwealth Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe, who is a former Immigration Department deputy secretary, is the best-paid individual in an ombudsman’s role and takes home $471,090.

Fletch knows best

There’s no slowing down in Communications Minister Paul Fletcher’s unending quest for information. Last year, this column reflected on how his enthusiasm for gathering data had resulted in the Communications Department shelling out more than $1 million on tenders for reports and … more data.

Last year, there was $79,000 to Justin Jameson’s Venture Consulting to report on the impacts of COVID-19 on the media sector. And former PwC partner Megan Brownlow picked up $11,000 for a report on the “regional television broadcasting industry”, while advisory firm KordaMentha’s tab for “regional broadcasting advice” came in at about $111,000. KordaMentha made plenty of hay, picking up an additional $22,000 for “financial analysis of media business”, plus $250,000 for an “assessment of the financial position of Australian media”. And now there’s more.

New year, new information. The department has handed the Boston Consulting Group a $1 million contract with a brief for regional television analysis. Yes, more. The contract kicked off in late February and will continue until June. BCG’s Sydney-based managing director Anna Green (a one-time Foxtel executive) must be stoked.

Night of nights

Labor leader Anthony Albanese headed back from a short jaunt to the NSW Central Coast on Wednesday in good time for the opposition’s Night of Nights.

Also known as the 2021 Leader and Shadow Cabinet Dinner, the event at Sydney’s Doltone House on Hyde Park is the Opposition Leader’s prime money-spinning event for the first half of the year. The event is also Albo’s big chance to appeal to Sydney’s business community, with representatives from some of the Big Four accounting firms and top-of-the-town businesses in attendance.

But they weren’t giving the tickets away by any stretch. Federal Labor Business Forum organisers flogged tickets for $800 a piece and tables of nine plus a shadow cabinet member for $8000.

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