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Restaurant staff loss hard to swallow Stephen Taylor THE owner of Sorrento restaurant Acquolina Brett Johnson admits to being “shell-shocked” at the defection of 13 experienced kitchen staff to rival, The Sisters Kitchen Garden Cafe. Their surprise departure last week has forced the temporary closure of his and partner Maria Grazia Baiguini’s fine dining restaurant at the busiest time of the year and caused a spat between the two popular eateries. “We simply can’t find staff at this late stage so it was better to close temporarily and reopen on Boxing Day,” Mr Johnson said. “We will reopen and do something simple, such as serving fresh lasagne, ravioli, risotto and pasta plates.” While on his regular visits to Italy Mr Johnson arranges for Italian staff to work at Acquolina and arranges accommodation. He said the visitors were free to work elsewhere as long as it didn’t affect their roles at Acquolina. However this year the system appears to have broken down and the staff have defected and found other places to stay through their new employer. “The Italians often worked elsewhere out of hours and the arrangement had seemed to be working well,” Sorrento chamber of commerce vice-president Marc Clavin said. “Now that seems to have been undone.” The spirit of cooperation among the town’s traders following the razing of The Baths restaurant late October has been shattered at the start of the six-week period in which they make twothirds of their annual income.

Mr Clavin said the loss of The Baths had left Acquolina as one of the few fine dining restaurants in the town “and now it’s a tragedy that another one in the main street has been lost”. “Brett and Maria are right in the middle of the strip and the potential knock-on effect to other businesses is of concern.” In the short term, Mr Johnson says Acquolina’s trading hours will be 11am-9pm rather than only at night, and revert to its former style and times in February. “It’s certainly been a stressful time and my Christmas cheer level did drop a notch, but we have begun to come out the other side,” Mr Johnson said. “There’s no animosity; we are looking forward now, not back.” Mr Johnson saying his restaurant usually did 35 per cent of its trade in December. “We should be working together in such a small town rather than fighting each other,” he said. Pippa Robinson, of The Sisters, denies “poaching” staff from her up-market rival, and says only five of the 13 made the move. “We are only open for breakfast and lunch and they open for dinner, so I really don’t know what the issue is,” she said. “I got texts from all their [Acquolina’s] staff asking me for jobs here. “Brett [Johnson] came to see me and made a scene and said I had stolen his staff. I said, ‘No, they came over to me voluntarily. “They said they had all been fired, so there was no poaching.” In the wake of the staffing row, Ms Robinson said The Sisters was expecting to open for dinner from Boxing Day onwards.

Change of style: Acquolina’s Brett Johnson and Maria Grazia Baiguini plan to reopen on Boxing Day with more simple fare before reverting to fine dining in February. Picture: Yanni

LETTERS Shocking losses The article “Gamblers lose $79m to peninsula pokies” (The News 17/11/15) makes for distressing reading. Behind those figures are many devastated families affected by gambling on poker machines. Maybe many people are not aware that one of the biggest poker machine owners in our area is Woolworths supermarkets. The very company that trades on family values owns 12,000 poker machines and is earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from some of the poorest regions because of the concentration of its poker machines in low income areas. In my nearest township alone, Somerville, $5.7 million of was lost in one hotel controlled by the supermarket just around the corner, Woolworths. But there is a way we can use our consumer power to make a protest about the scourge of poker machines in our society. Many people like me may choose to boycott Woolworths and therefore send a clear message to them that we think a company that supposedly cares about families shouldn’t be involved in poker machines. Geoff Selby, Moorooduc

Talk costs worthwhile The attendance of councillors and staff at the Paris climate change talks in Paris was money well spent and will provide some valuable local insights into how climate change will impact the Mornington Peninsula in particular, and the Port Phillip region in general. Australia, with the highest per capita emissions of all OECD countries, was dragged kicking and screaming to the negotiation table in Paris, and it was seen that the Australian government was extremely reluctant to make any concessions to reduce emissions from Australia’s fossil fuelled economy. The intransigence, incompetence and grossly inadequate carbon abatement policies of the government, particularly those propagandised by Environment Minister Greg Hunt, illustrates that the federal government’s actions are absolutely useless when it comes to reducing carbon emissions. Future emissions reductions will come mainly from local and regional initiatives such as solar and wind. The big fossil fuel burners who the government supports, will continue to pollute


Mornington News 22 December 2015

over many decades. The government is committed to delay and obfuscation, preferring coal over renewable energy. Everyone will suffer. Many of your correspondents do not understand this, and castigate the council for taking action on the local implications of climate change. Unless members of the community take action to curb their affluent lifestyle and take responsibility for reducing their carbon footprint, current federal government policies will invariably lead to increased and unsustainable resource consumption, higher energy use and more carbon emissions. Right around Australia, many local governments provide leadership and beneficial community projects to reduce carbon emissions, and provide local opportunities. We should expect no less from the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council. Its recent carbon neutral strategy and overseas fact finding are necessary first steps. Councillors now need to walk the talk, involve the community and allocate significant community project budget funds. Ken Dyer, Rosebud

Staying on topic Michael G Free (“Wasted words”, The News 15/12/15) must think when it comes to replies in the newspapers that one size fits all. Michael G Free, apart from the heading and date, sent the very same letter some weeks ago in reply to my comments on climate change. This time, he’s a little bit closer to the topic. Michael G Free doesn’t have to lecture me about how politics operate as I was involved with a political party for some years down here. He is right, the major parties do control the Lower House most time, but, sometimes independents, these (“Blowhards and single issue parties”, his words) get in on single issues and can sway a decision one way or the other by doing deals with said major parties. But, the Upper House is different as it has proportional representation where single issue parties can get in on one per cent of the vote, such as Ricky Muir along with others in the Senate and the Sex Party in the Legislative Assembly (the Upper House) thanks to the “preference whisperer” who instructed these candidates to swap preferences. So, these people can change policies to get what they want.

Peninsula plovers A big thank you to the teacher volunteers from The Peninsula School, Mt Eliza, who visited peninsula ocean beaches to do a beach clean last Wednesday. After a briefing by Parks Victoria, it was off to gather rubbish from Rye, St Andrews and Gunnamatta ocean beaches with members of Friends of the Hooded Plover.

Michael G Free mentions lost causes, including Tassells Creek and Blue Wedges, but, he fails to mention the successes: Rosebud marina, fail; SPA on the Rosebud foreshore, fail; East West Link, fail. Incidentally, I had claimed there was a $400 million debt to all Victorians thanks to the Napthine government but only last week, he debt has blown out to $1.1 billion. Which brings me back to my point, which Michael G Free didn’t address: We need to be a marginal seat. And, also to Michael G Free, I have never

This is territory of the endangered hooded plover, the peninsula’s true local, a shorebird that desperately need our help to survive. Chick numbers are declining rapidly and suffer from many threats, such as foxes and dogs wandering loose in Mornington Peninsula National Park. Rubbish can be another threat to shorebirds. The teachers spent all day collecting rubbish and learning about the endangered birds. Graeme Millar, Friends of the Hooded Plover

written a letter to our Clayton’s environment minister, nor do I intend to. John Cain, McCrae Letters to the editor can be sent to The News, PO Box 588, Hastings 3915 or emailed to: Letters should be kept to a maximum 300 words and include name, address and contact phone number for verification purposes.

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22 December 2015  

Mornington News 22 December 2015

22 December 2015  

Mornington News 22 December 2015