A nasty case of office envy is threatening to invade the highest court in the land. While the Canberra headquarters of the High Court of Australia are being renovated, its Sydney-based justices, Bill Gummow, Virginia Bell and Dyson Heydon, are making the most of their newly renovated digs at Sydney's Queens Square Law Courts.
Weakness in the foundations of the Canberra building is causing the forecourt to sink into the earth, and the building has also suffered from a leaky roof and windows.
The Queens Square complex - which also accommodates the Supreme and Federal courts - is being overhauled at an estimated cost of $240 million. With the High Court's top-floor rooms the first to be overhauled, some judges from less elevated courts have already expressed their wonder at the sumptuous new quarters for the NSW-based justices.
Gummow is reported to have secured the most coveted office, a corner one with views across the Botanic Gardens and the harbour.
WATCH THE (PINE) GAP
All the attention might have been on which politically sensitive lyrics Peter Garrett would belt out for Midnight Oil at the Sound Relief benefit concert in Melbourne on Saturday, but the real potential for embarrassment occurred a month ago.
The Sun-Herald revealed yesterday that the Senate had passed legislation on Wednesday strengthening laws protecting Pine Gap, the US spy base at Alice Springs, including a seven-year jail term for photographing or going near it. The bill was introduced by Garrett's colleague, the Defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, last December. It was debated and passed by the House of Representatives on February 10 - without a peep of protest from Garrett, who before entering politics was a prominent critic of the base.
To be fair, in 2004, shortly before he was elected, Garrett told the ABC said he believed Pine Gap should not be closed because it was valuable in the fight against terrorism. But that didn't stop him singing US Forces on Friday night's warm-up gig in Canberra.
A group of New Zealand performers have smashed the boundaries of good taste by creating a rock opera inspired by Josef Fritzl, the man who imprisoned his daughter Elisabeth in a home dungeon for 23 years, forcing her to have seven of his children. The Sunday Star-Times reports that the show, Das Roq Opera, will debut at the Dunedin Fringe Festival on March 26. It is described as a "flamboyant, Rocky Horror-style musical".
MC TAKES BITE OF REES
Nathan Rees was guest speaker at a St Patrick's Day lunch on Friday. The event, hosted annually by the Lansdowne Club, a club for Irish business professionals, was emceed by the comedian Andrew O'Keefe who couldn't resist a crack at the Premier. O'Keefe reckoned Rees was nowhere near as successful as St Patrick, who legend has it drove the snakes out of Ireland, given that he couldn't do the same for the snakes in his caucus.
MAKING HOUSE CALLS
The real estate agent in charge of selling Reba Meagher's Coogee apartment was fielding some unexpected calls yesterday after a Sunday newspaper published the former health minister's address. "It's a bit unfair," Carl Wilson told The Diary. "If I was a single girl, I wouldn't be too happy." The three-bedroom, art-deco apartment is proving a little difficult to shift, having been on the market for three weeks at an asking price of $795,000 plus. During her time as the MP for Cabramatta, Meagher was dubbed the Member for Coogeematta for her decision to live in Coogee instead of a flat she owns in her electorate.
WOMEN IN CHARGE
A display of naval might at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday was matched by an equally impressive display of women in power. With the Australian fleet in town, tradition demands that the navy seek permission to enter the City of Sydney. As part of the freedom of entry ceremony, the navy fleet commander, Rear Admiral Nigel Coates, sought the permission from a quartet of women: the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, the Governor, Marie Bashir, the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, and the Deputy Lord Mayor, Marcelle Hoff. Keeping up appearances for the blokes was the police commissioner, Andrew Scipione. About 4600 naval personnel marched down George Street, the largest gathering of troops in the city since World War II.
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WHAT'S ON TODAY
- Trial of Josef Fritzl begins in Austria
- Year of the Blood Donor launched at Customs House
- ABS lending finance figures released
- HMAS Sydney inquiry continues
- Federal Parliament sits
- Final week of Queensland election campaign beginsSTAY IN TOUCHWITH ARTS PRIZES
The Australian Music Prize and the National Photographic Portrait Prize are awarded this week. The winner of this year's $25,000 Photographic Portrait Prize will be announced on Thursday night at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. The prize is open to amateurs and professionals. Among the finalists is the NSW senior crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi, while subjects include Joe Hockey, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Ricky Ponting and Charles Blackman. Three Herald photographers feature: Dean Sewell, Quentin Jones and Sahlan Hayes. The full exhibition is open to the public from Friday, the same day the Australian Music Prize, our answer to Britain's Mercury Prize, is awarded. The $30,000 prize, founded in 2005, is judged by a panel of music critics. This year's shortlist includes the dance-music acts the Presets and Cut Copy along with the previous winners the Drones.WITH SURF CULTURE
The Australian Surf Movie Festival starts in Sydney on Wednesday night at the Randwick Ritz before heading up and down the coast to screen at Harbord Diggers on Thursday, Bondi Beach Surf Club on Friday, Palm Beach on Saturday and Cronulla Cinema on Sunday. In terms of surfing-film trends, last year was all about Australian locations and helicopter tow-ins at breaks such as Shipsterns in Tasmania, which are fast catching up to Hawaii as big wave destinations. Now in its sixth year, this year's festival is a big wave special showcasing performances from Australian big wave surfers such as Maroubra's Koby Abberton and Mark Mathews. On Thursday there will also be the launch party in Bondi for the ABC television series Bombora: The Story Of Australian Surfing. The series, narrated by Jack Thompson, features archival footage of surfers Midget Farrelly, Bob Pike and Nat Young (pictured ).WITH THE RATINGS RACE
It still can claim to be the most talked-about and watched show on television, but the continued ratings success of Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities was not enough to win the week for Nine. It finished last week with 28.7 per cent of the audience, less than a percentage point behind Seven, which won with 29.4 per cent. Last week Underbelly drew an average of almost 2.63 million viewers, but it was the only Nine program to finish in the top 10. Seven's family drama Packed to the Rafters again ran a distant second - 1.8 million viewers - but it was joined by other consistent Seven performers, such as Border Security (1.55 million) and Find My Family (1.54 million). Network Ten had one program in the top 10, NCIS (1.4 million), and finished in third place with 21.5 per cent of the audience. ABC had 16 per cent and SBS had 5.3 per cent.