An Australian news roundup

Rapid Hollywood progress for Queenslander

Should Sophie Monk run into Carmen Electra walking down Sunset Boulevard, she might want to duck out of sight, or just get ready to duck. Despite having arrived in Hollywood just 10 months ago, Monk has already done the former Baywatch babe out of roles in two major films. Producers apparently had Electra pegged for the role of sex siren ex-girlfriend in Date Movie, but backtracked after seeing Monk. And the pattern repeated itself with the new Adam Sandler film Click. It has been a big turnaround for the 26-year-old Queenslander, once a Marilyn Monroe impersonator at Warner Bros Movieworld. Twelve months ago, Sophie Monk was just another reality TV graduate whose star was already fading. But shrugging off those who warned her against making the move, Monk followed the well-worn path of many a wannabe star and went to Hollywood. Now she not only has the movie roles, but her stalled music career looks like taking off again. Monk's dramatic change of fortune began with a simple decision. "I thought I would just come over here and give it a go," Monk recalls. "Everyone said, 'You really think you'll make it?'. I had so many people saying, 'Seriously Sophie, you haven't even done acting'. I said, 'I know I can do it, it's easy' and I just came over and met my agent and it just kind of worked out." Monk says within days of arriving she was auditioning and winning parts. First she got a part in a TV pilot, then the film roles".

Stupid airline "security" in Australia too: "American rocker and writer Henry Rollins was reported to the National Security hotline during his recent Australian tour because of a book he was reading on a flight to Brisbane. A furious Rollins was informed he was "nominated as a possible threat" for reading Jihad: The Rise Of Militant Islam In Central Asia, writes Kathy McCabe. The incident happened on a flight from Auckland on the recent Big Day Out tour. Rollins told Australian fans during his tour that he received a letter from a "nice woman" who worked "in one of those government areas that deals with anti-terrorism matters." He posted the letter on his website. "Please tell your Government and everyone in your office to go f... themselves. Baghdad's safer than my hometown and your PM is a sissy," he wrote".

The usual efficient government record-keeping: "Almost 1.5 million Centrelink customers [i.e. welfare recipients] are dead, a new report shows. More than 27,000 have never been born, 33 died but never saw the light of day, and one customer was born two months after he or she died. An audit of Centrelink's customer records has identified a series of anomalies and errors that increase the risk of incorrect payments. The audit report, released yesterday, showed that 1.46 million customers had a date of death recorded in their active Centrelink file. A small number of these customers were still receiving welfare payments, but most were not. The welfare agency's huge customer database, the Income Security Integrated System, stores 23 million records and 6.2 million are for customers receiving benefits."

Another brilliant military equipment purchase: "Defence chiefs yesterday admitted they had made a $1 billion mistake in buying Vietnam-era helicopters in the belief they could upgrade them. Dr Stephen Gumley, head of the Defence Material Organisation said it was apparent the Defence department's Seasprite helicopter program had been an embarrassingly costly blunder. "It's now clear that we made a mistake back in the mid-90s in going down this path," he told a Senate estimates committee. "We are now looking at future capabilities and we are treating upgrades with a lot more caution than we did in the mid-90s." Ordered in 1997, the choppers -- which cost $100 million each -- are likely to begin full service only next year. The Defence department bought 11 Seasprite air frames -- some of which were 40 years old at the time -- in the belief they could gut and rebuild them. But cost blow-outs and problems with sub-contractors meant the first of the 11 was delivered three years late, and even then did not work as billed. The plan was to see the navy place the 11 aircraft aboard Anzac frigates. So far only nine have been delivered and they are confined to land duties because of software problems."


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