THE LAST GASP: Castles in the air

Labor hopes come crashing down, Lend Lease's US foundations are shaken and Donald Trump fights the wind.

The Last Gasp is a wry take on the week's biggest news stories, every week. This week, Labor becomes less sure its Slipper gamble was the right move, Lend Lease learns from its mistakes… sort of... and Donald Trump takes issue with Scottish wind.

Labor’s Slippery gamble

The federal government’s unshakable hold on power came to the fore again this week after its expediently installed speaker, Liberal turncoat Peter Slipper, stood down following claims he had allegedly misused taxpayer-funded Cabcharges and sexually harassed a former male staffer. With Labor keen to pass various budget measures through parliament before the winter recess, it wasted no time in backing Slipper to return to his post as quickly as possible. But Independent MP Rob Oakeshott said Labor shouldn’t bet on key independent MPs backing Slipper’s return before all substantial matters had been resolved. In a twist of irony, independent Andrew Wilkie, who helped Labor form a minority government on condition of support for his mandatory pre-commitment pokies legislation and was snubbed after Slipper’s appointment, suddenly regained significance in the eyes of the government. But according to rumours, Wilkie said that while Slipper’s departure could potentially put pokies reform back on the table, Labor’s inability to honour its own pre-commitments on things like political deals and election promises did not bode well for the success of the new laws, should they pass.

Lend Lease learns a lesson

Construction and property giant Lend Lease this week agreed to pay up to $US56 million in penalties and restitution after it admitted to having defrauded customers over a ten-year period by routinely overcharging them, and failed to adhere to minority hiring mandates. The mandates included the requirement to use firms run by women and minority groups. Lend Lease has since come out and said that all operations at its US-based arm, Bovis Lend Lease (now Lend Lease US Construction), which committed the offences, were now above board. The group hired over 1000 workers between 1999 and 2009 and worked on high-profile projects including the New York Mets stadium and the September 11 Memorial. Keen to prove it has learned its lesson, the company is reported to be enthusiastically planning the construction of a monument to its own fraud victims, to be built entirely by low-paid Hispanic women.

HSU hypocrisy

There was another twist in the tale of the Health Service Union this week with Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten announcing that the government would take the extraordinary measure of applying to the Federal Court to have the beleaguered HSU East branch placed in administration. The HSU, which has been heavily scrutinised ever since Labor backbencher Craig Thomson’s alleged misuse of a union credit card, is currently the subject of two Fair Work Australia investigations, police probes and an independent review commissioned by the HSU into alleged financial mismanagement. The HSU’s East branch has also been hamstrung by infighting between suspended HSU boss and East branch secretary Michael Williamson and national secretary Kathy Jackson. Rumour has it Shorten told reporters that it was Labor’s outstanding track record on financial management and its widely known ability to avoid infighting that saw it well placed to deal with the debacle in a swift and effective manner.

Donald trumps the wind?

The week’s news just wouldn’t be complete without a reasonable request from one of earth’s resident billionaires. This time it was US property tycoon Donald Trump who had an extremely busy time as he flagged two mega international seaside developments; one by the Black Sea in Georgia and another in Scotland. All was going well until Trump’s benevolent pursuits in Scotland hit a snag when he discovered the government planned to build offshore wind farms within eyeshot of his exclusive new golf resort. Trump expressed his displeasure at such green ambitions saying the giant turbines would spoil the view. He pointed out in no uncertain terms that the entire Scottish economy hinged on the success of his resort. "Scotland, if you pursue this policy of these monstrous turbines, Scotland will go broke," he said. Trump reportedly said that while he was on the subject, parliament might as well do something to put a stop to the wind along his stretch of coast altogether, saying it made it difficult to hit straight tee shots and unnerved some of his kilt-wearing guests.

Joyce’s mumbo jumbo 65

The rhetoric between Qantas boss Alan Joyce and Virgin’s John Borghetti ramped up this week as Virgin signalled plans to break Qantas’ stranglehold on the domestic business travel market. Joyce responded, saying the Flying Kangaroo would aim not to fall short of its long-held ‘65 per cent of domestic air travel’ strategy. Virgin is set to take delivery of two new Airbus A330s and Alan Joyce pulled out all the stops, saying Qantas would increase its domestic capacity – and even did an extended television interview from the comfort of a business class Skybed. Borghetti hit back at Joyce’s market-share mantra saying it was an old and recycled strategy of former Qantas boss Geoff Dixon and that he was tired of hearing it. But according to rumours, Joyce proudly responded saying Borghetti had it all wrong and that, in fact, the 65 per cent figure referred to the portion of the year he was planning not to have his entire fleet grounded due to engine explosions or industrial action. Apparently he said that based on past success, the airline planned to promote its strategy exclusively via Twitter.

Quick misses

– Telstra subsidiary Sensis proved this week why it has been such a successful business in recent times, with Sensis API (SAPI) launching the SAPI Bounty Program – "A series of creatively themed challenges to inspire developers, entrepreneurs and designers to create viable apps”. This week’s challenge: How will you survive and thrive during the inevitable zombie apocalypse? What do you need to know when the dead rise and walk the earth? The move has been lauded as one of the greatest productivity and marketing strategies in living memory.

– Recently appointed Foreign Minister Bob Carr travelled to the US this week to meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the first time in his new role. While the meeting generally went to plan, Clinton gave a short speech in which she highlighted the importance Australia holds in the eyes of its greatest ally, by mispronouncing the name of our beloved leader as "prime minister Geeard”. Gillard reportedly responded via Twitter thanking "Heeary Clinton” for her kind words.