by Mike Welsh

THE smug smirk permanently parked across the annoyingly plausible face of Prime Minister Scott Morrison is not borne of any cockiness but a deeply held conviction that he finally has opposition leader Bill Shorten right where conservative politics wants him – in a one-on-one contest. 

Tony Abbott didn’t need to figure Bill out and Malcolm Turnbull didn’t even try, but ScoMo has been gagging to get Bill to this for a long time. Morrison’s smirk is dripping with “Bill’s my bunny”.

Officially, the line will be the economy, climate change, border protection etcetera but the undercurrent, or dog whistle, is: “Bill is a bad, bad man”. After six years and three leaders, the LNP has little else in its campaign kitbag.

For someone with a flash marketing resume, Morrison is acutely aware of that basic rule of advertising, “less is more”. 

On the surface, he made a meal of his first pitch to the nation after calling the election on April 11 with his: “If you vote for me you’ll get me, if you vote for Bill Shorten, you’ll get Bill Shorten”. But there is a method to his seemingly message-mangling madness.

Message: “Get Bill and you also get his nasty union thug mates”.

A few days earlier Morrison had served the entree: “But Labor are full of lies and high tax. That’s all you need to know about Labor”.

Message: “Bill Shorten is a liar”.

And Bill’s union mates were central to conservative commentator Miranda Devine’s ludicrous piece in the Sydney “Telegraph” suggesting Shorten’s slight speech affliction is in fact an affectation. Devine said “Shorten sometimes says “with” and sometimes “wiv”, a vestige of trying to slum it with his union bruvvers after attending one of Melbourne’s poshest schools”.

Message: “Bill Shorten is a fraud”.

With an already deeply cynical electorate largely disapproving of negative political behaviour, the battle will still be more about slogans and smear/fear campaigns of varying degrees of viciousness than explanation of policies.

But relying on the effectiveness of negative political attacks poses real risks for the major players. Do they have the skill to kick a head and move on? Millennials are now more politically astute and fully engaged than in the recent past.

Twenty three years ago my five-year-old daughter came running into the room crying indignantly that “John Howard hurts families”. She’d been exposed to a negative ALP TV commercial designed to prevent Howard from moving into The Lodge in March, 1996. A residence he occupied (too little for some locals’ liking) for the next 11 years during which he launched successful election campaigns mostly with the perennial “who-do-you-trust?” line.

That traumatised five-year-old is now a millennial with a raft of millennial issues demanding to be addressed.

Signalling and messaging to this socially progressive cohort, financially conservative, with a genuine concern for the planet is now a complex task.

Thanks to social media flushing out the concept of identity politics, defined as: “A tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etcetera to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics”, the once reliable short, sharp political stab that easily reached the masses now comes with the high risk of missing new mobs within the masses. 

Bright young political staffers are now required to forensically fossick through the dirty and dangerous skips of social media, hoping to tap into a seam of vote-winning gold running through our increasingly more fragmented and fraught society.

But there are still many cautious coalition MPs who are much less flamboyant than their brash new leader from the world of advertising. A week before the poll was called, the member for Bennelong (John Howard’s old seat), John Alexander, ran with “who do you trust?”.

Just how difficult it is to teach old dog whistlers new tricks will be clear on or around May 18.



BARELY hours after PM Scott Morrison called a Federal election for May 18, news teams were on the streets of Queanbeyan – the heart of the once bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro – feeling the pulse. 

Mike Kelly’s touched-up teeth outside his Queanbeyan office. Photo: Mike Welsh

At the same time, across the border the streets of Manuka were alive with the colour green as half a dozen Greens volunteers hit the ground early, handing out material on behalf of the party’s candidate for the seat of Canberra, Tim Hollo and ACT Senate hopeful Dr Penny Kyburz.

MEANWHILE back in Eden-Monaro, incumbent Dr Mike Kelly’s teething troubles have been fixed. Months ago, an unknown wag blacked out a couple of his pearly whites in Kelly’s enormous image plastered on the outside of his Monaro Street office, giving the good doctor an imbecilic look. But there’s nothing like an election to bring out the best in people and Kelly’s beaming smile has been restored with the unsubtle application of white paint.

Kingston Foreshore local Tia meets Hercules, the therapy alpaca. Photo: Mike Welsh

OUT among the people this week was popular therapy alpaca Hercules, still grieving the death of partner Mimosa, killed last month in a dog attack. He’s back to doing what he does best, participating in selfies with his legion of fans. Handler Nils Lantzke says Hercules spent a few days after the attack waiting by the gate for Mimosa to return, but is back to his regular gig of visiting patients at Clare Holland House.

IN local politics Liberal MLA Mark Parton is indeed a brave man. Taunting animal rights activists has been a free-for-all this week, but as a public figure Parton is certainly inviting strife. The former radio man tweeted: “If you wanna be vegan, all power to U, but DON’T FORCE IT DOWN MY THROAT. Don’t trespass on to hard-working farmers’ homes and properties. And leave meat workers the hell alone”.

Meat Lover Mark

WHEN I first worked in the northern industrial suburb of Mitchell, early 2003, there were probably three or four coffee shops, a bakery and a Greasy Joe’s fast food outlet. The area now boasts many fine coffee brands, impressive pastries, an award-winning craft beer brewery, IT and production houses gaining national reputations and a tram-shed full of shiny red Spanish trams. The suburb has just taken a massive technological leap as a potential Tech Hub, housing the launching pad for the world’s first drone delivery service by Wing, owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet.

And for those who may be wondering exactly how this delivery service works, online site simplified the process: “Customers place an order for popular items like food, coffee and medicine through Wing’s app. Minutes later a drone arrives with the goods at their doorstep.” The company initially plans to deliver into Gungahlin, Harrison, Franklin, Palmerston and Crace by mid year. The company predicts by 2030 there could be more than 10,000 drone deliveries each day in Canberra.

LATEST stats reveal the capital is now officially the most expensive city in Australia in which to rent, with houses here around $30 higher a week than in Sydney. And to make matters more stressful for renters entering the market, scammers are also active. One newcomer to the region applied for a rental property in Lyneham, only to be told they needed to shell out $2400 via bank transfer before being able to inspect the property. He quickly smelt a rat and notified AllHomes, which took the apartment off its listings. The property later reappeared on, again being quickly deleted.

OUR northern suburbs’ snout “Pete” was recently left incredulous after discovering the National Press Club, which also houses the ACT/NSW NBN office, does not yet enjoy the benefits of the political football that is the national broadband network.

A bit of snooping by “Pete” revealed 16 National Circuit does have a cable – of sorts – passing its front door but no connection has yet been made. He’s been assured a hook up is “imminent”.


LAST week’s dust storm of biblical proportions blanketing Canberra, bringing down power lines and shrouding our iconic sites, inspired many to become apocalyptic and opportunistically link it to climate change. 

Journalist Quentin Dempster tweeted: “Apocalypse now… Canberra’s communications tower invisible in dust storm. MPs share the community’s grief at recent unprecedented floods/fires. But there is no plan to confront greater frequency of those extreme weather events.”

CANBERRANS may vaguely remember the hellfire-and-brimstone preacherPastor Danny Nalliah from Catch the Fire Ministry. But those with sharper recollections have resurrected the reverend in the wake of blood being wiped on Pauline Hanson’s office door and its vague biblical implications. “The Australian’s” Strewth column recalls October 2009 when Pastor Danny discovered a “black mass altar” on Mt Ainslie blaming the devil for casting a black spell on the Federal parliament below.

VALENTINE’S Day may have left ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja feeling unloved. A double page print advertisement – authorised by Unions ACT – boldly informed the senator: “You’re dumped, Zed”. The ad, urging voters to “Let Zed know it’s over”, features solemn black and white head shots of Seselja, Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton and suggests the former ACT Liberals’ leader “was too close to Peter and Tony” and didn’t “stand for important issues like climate change or marriage equality”.

The campaign comes amid rumblings from local Libs that Zed has lost traditional support and will struggle to gain financial and on-the-ground assistance during the campaign. It’s also understood polling for Assistant Minister for Treasury and Finance is concerning. There is talk that a “progressive liberal-leaning candidate” will be announced soon to run against him.

Author Ginger Gorman… taking on the trolls. Photo: Mike Welsh

CANBERRA author Ginger Gorman was forced to seek psychological help after completing a book about the dark and damaging practice of internet trolling. In “Troll Hunting” she takes on some of the nastiest trolls of the internet and reveals the frightening impact on society of the hateful and damaging comments swirling freely around cyberspace.

The former ABC journalist told a sold-out audience at the National Library the book came at a high emotional cost that had her often “crying, drinking and shouting at my children”. Gorman remains committed to forcing sites such as Facebook and Twitter to be more accountable for what is posted and for wider-ranging and stronger legislation covering what can be published.

I LIKE to think I live in a civilised city. A city through which our local political leaders are free to roam without harassment and the need for security. I recall Jon Stanhope sitting alone in the food hall at Belconnen Westfield on Saturday mornings ready for a chat. I’ve seen Katy Gallagher, when CM, taking her kids to the movies again without muscle. I recently followed (at a discreet and non-stalking distance) current CM Andrew Barr through Civic. Accompanied by just one flunky, Barr was totally unmolested by anyone and did not exchange greetings with or acknowledge anyone during the five or so minutes of my research. Is it possible Barr is unapproachable, unrecognised or are we just a more couth, respectful and reserved mob?

O Week jolly jape… student’s car wrapped in clear plastic.

O Week traditionally reboots Canberra back into full production and it wouldn’t be O Week without a few wacky, student pranks. While not a stunt of legendary proportions, a small car wrapped in plastic attracted plenty of double takes at UC. Third-year student Kirralee Delahunty from Wagga Wagga returned to her red Suzuki to see it tightly trussed in 600 metres of dollar-shop, clear plastic.

THE civilised city has lost two of its citizens. Deb and Milo, both retired public servants, were featured on the new ABC program “Escape from the City”. Dissatisfied with the local climate, the pair was intent on escaping as far from the capital as possible – the Margaret River region of WA. The program offers experts to smooth the path for people who’ve made the brave “life-changing decision to escape the city”.


THE “Canberra Bubble” may have the same questionable soundproofing qualities as Maxwell Smart’s “Cone of Silence”, and former PM Tony Abbott may need to get smart over his loose lips. 

“The Australian Financial Review” reports a diner seated near Abbott and journalist Simon Benson at the Kurrajong Hotel, “listening intently” and taking “comprehensive notes”. Journalists Myriam Robin and Joe Aston, write the member for Warringah freely shared opinions on several colleagues, including PM Scott Morrison, and enemies within his local branch.

MANUKA Oval – and Canberra – have passed the cricket Test test. Fans lavished praise upon the venue and its surrounds with “boutique” popping up across social media. @SamRoggeveen evoked an idyllic English village green, tweeting: “can’t be too many venues left where you can hear the batsmen calling and church bells on a Sunday afternoon”. Fans also appreciated the old-school, Jack Fingleton scoreboard and wanted to know why there was a Sir Donald Bradman stand but not a Sir Robert Menzies stand. Others queried the pronunciation of Manuka.

TIGHT security saw even former captain Greg Chappell bodily scanned by a metal detector outside the ground. And for the foolhardy fan wanting to be the first to streak at a Manuka Test, staff had “modesty” blankets on hand to cover the privates of pitch invaders. But the ultimate Australian sporting credibility thumbs up was the fact that the nearby Kingston Hotel was reportedly drunk dry by thirsty cricket fans.

THE international Year of the Pig may end up being the year of the dog in Canberra with the local greyhound industry refusing to let go of the bone after being put down last year. Canberra owners and trainers are still focused on being able to race on their home track and are heading to the High Court in March. And the dangerous-dog issue is set to again come under the microscope.

A PHOTO of a political dog with several election campaigns under its collar has made the shortlist of a national photographic competition. Canberra photographer Jamila Toderas’ snap of would-be politician Steven Bailey and his faithful black lab Bruce is one of two local entries to make the final cut of the 2019 National Photographic Portrait Prize. Bruce gained notoriety assisting its master as he campaigned for elections as a Katter Australia Party and Sex Party candidate. Wouter Van de Voorde also made the final 40 .

HIGHLY regarded commercial radio man George Mihalos has died. The dual ACRA winning announcer/producer who spent many years with the Capital radio network in Canberra succumbed to cancer after a decade-long battle. Tributes from across the radio industry flooded in after the news of George’s passing. He was 47. 

THE damning findings of an investigation into Canberra’s public health sector will come as no surprise to many who have worked in and around the system. But the “worrying and poor culture” which the review found “exists within ACT Health” would surely shock former chief minister and health minister Katy Gallagher. The ACT Labor Senate candidate assured me on many occasions during her tenure there was “not a serious bullying problem in the ACT”.

THERE would also be few around Yass who would be surprised to learn the “palatability of Yass water is a major issue to be addressed”. Yass Valley Council explained in a press release that “due to current climatic conditions, water catchment experiences excessive levels of manganese and iron” which oxidises and causes “discolouration and an unpleasant smell”.

In mitigation, the council says, had it not made the “difficult decision to prioritise water security over aesthetic appearance and taste” by raising the dam wall in 2013, residents “may presently have better-tasting water but would also be experiencing severe water restrictions”. Kind of damned if you do and damned if you…


JANUARY is the time when politicians grandstand in order to draw attention to themselves. ACT Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury chose a risky vehicle for exposure by jumping on the “I’ve-taken-ecstasy-too” bandwagon. 

Lobbying the NSW government to allow pill testing at music festivals, NSW Green Cate Faehrmann admitted: “Since my 20s, I’ve occasionally taken MDMA at dance parties and music festivals”. Rattenbury admits he tried MDMA once but “didn’t like the effect it had on me”.

RATTENBURY’S glibness has a familiar ring to it. A ’90s disingenuous confession by a well-known baby boomer from Little Rock, Arkansas, to “experimenting” with weed but not “inhaling” springs to mind. Hopefully, Bill Clinton’s dope dodge doesn’t spread through the Assembly. We are not ready for screaming headlines “attributed” to Libs leader Alistair Coe: “I once snuck into Mooseheads on a school night, but I didn’t drink”!

STILL on the Clinton administration, a Canberra author has tweeted former White House intern Monica Lewinsky on the topic of internet trolls. @Ginger Gorman offered @MonicaLewinsky a copy of her new book “Troll Hunting: Inside the world of online hate and its human fallout”. Ms Gorman told the activist: “I really admire the work you are doing in this area and would like to give you one”. Gorman also tweeted: “The world’s most notorious troll, weev, describes me as a ‘lying whore’, Is he right?”’

FORMER ACT football chief Heather Reid has been drawn into the ugly brawl sparked by the shock sacking of Matilda’s coach Alen Stajcic. Ms Reid, who joined a new-look FFA board late last year, has been forced to defend herself from media accusations she was part of a group that punted the coach. An angry Reid says the suggestion was “absolutely not correct” and that it was “an ugly mess that some people in the media want to push against women of influence” including herself.

STILL in the women’s sports arena; when I was on radio in 2013 I regularly struggled to get a single taker for free tickets to a Canberra Capitals game. But that dark period for the outfit which had had a stranglehold on women’s basketball for the previous decade is finally over with the Caps WNBL Minor premiers. And, true to form, Canberra’s fair-weather sports fans are flocking back to Caps’ games at double the rate of last year.

EDGY local animal protection activist group Anti-Speciesist Action Collective has pledged to ramp up the shock value of its public protests. Cleverly tapping into the barbecue theme of Australia Day, the group staged a “Babies on the Barbie” in Civic. A spokesperson tweeted: “We raised a lot of eyebrows and instigated some double takes in Garema Place. Bystanders were fascinated by the concept we were illustrating”.

Five-year-old chocolate border collie Jamie, the champion dog from Higgins.

A CHAMPION Canberra canine is going out on top, with some impressive letters to its name. Five-year-old chocolate border collie Jamie is now RO.CH Jamie CDX RAE RM and retiring from the sport of Companion Training after winning the prestigious ACT Rally Obedience Champion title. Jamie’s handler, Kaye Malone, from Higgins, says her pride and joy qualified seven times in Masters with a pass mark of 85 and a further 10 times with a pass mark of 90 to gain its Champion Title.

I turned 65 on Australia Day. Unexceptional, I know, but importantly I’m no longer cranky. Five years ago I threatened to buy myself a birthday present – a pet monkey that I could train to rip the face off the next person who uttered the puerile piffle that 60 was the new 50. Recently Jeff Kennett called for former PM Tony Abbott to leave politics. But Abbott’s reply: “The last thing we want to do is give the idea that just because you’re 60 or even 70 you’re necessarily over the hill”, still rankles. For the record, I didn’t buy the primate.



Lewis Walker is an Bundajalung elder from the North Coast NSW town of Tabulam and predicts that a healing day will overtake Invasion day within a decade

Lewis -who speaks the 13 languages of his nation- was in Canberra to attend the Australia Day Invasion Day (Jan 26) march. The Wahria-Bal custodian says a day of remembrance is a day of healing and hopes “to change this traumatised day into healing the people and healing the land”

Bundajalung elder and Wahria-Bal custodian Lewis Walker

Many laws were broken on this day, and before this day and before that because back then we had no record and no witnesses but today we got witnesses from all walks of life.

Lewis Walker
A Smoking Ceremony at the Tent Embassy on Australia Day


I’ve always felt just a bit special to have been born on January  26, Australia Day. It’s a birthday I share with the actors Paul Newman and Eartha Kitt, WW 11 hero, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and chat show queen Ellen DeGeneres, as well as a bunch of Australian Test cricketers including ex skipper, Kim Hughes, with whom I share the same birth date, Jan 26 1954.

Given the general significance of the day and my particular connection , it’s hard to believe that I once actually forgot my birthday. I don’t remember the exact year but it was towards the latter part of the 70s.

Not a red-letter date such  as December 25th or April 1st or even August 1st (the horse’s birthday) , but still a significant day and one which would be difficult to forget.

Now before you slap me around the head with the un- Australian stick, the occasion of our birth as a nation was not celebrated as wholeheartedly thirty years ago as it is today. Then,  for all we knew, Cultural Diversity (a colt by Diver Dan out of Cultural Cate) was the name of a horse in the race which stops a nation. Now it could easily be the reverse.. the nation which stops a horse of a completely different colour and race. Mixed metaphors aside the  whole complexion of my birthday has changed.

deni ute muster

I spent most my birthday, blissfully unaware of its importance, casually returning to my home base, a three hour car journey, after a week away. I’d even delayed my ETA by two hours. After all it was a long- weekend.  It was only when our Governor- General came on the radio to deliver his Australia Day address that I finally twigged. It just wasn’t fair. Fifteen hours of birthday had vanished without me knowing anything about it. And here I was all alone. On my birthday.

These days the penny would have dropped the instant I pulled into traffic. There would have been Australian flags fluttering from all points of all manner of vehicles on the road. That’s if I had miraculously managed to avoid the ubiquitous warnings of the beer, bar- b-que and beach and backyard cricket bash about to begin..

Australia Day is now loudly and wildly heralded many weeks in advance. My birthday has not only even become heavily commercialized ( a lamb producer cleverly employs a loud mouthed, overweight but surprisingly articulate former sports star to, satirically whip up national pride with the suggestion if you don’t eat meat you’re un- Australian) but ,frighteningly also politicised.

While the concept of the fat former full forward “taking the piss” is very familiar in this country…the racism on display in the summer of 2005 at Cronulla Beach was extremely uncomfortable and foreign to most  Australians.

cronulla riot pic

Flag waving has became the issue after Cronulla . Academics drilled deep into the causes and consequences of Cronulla (the flag becoming the “Cronulla cape” suggesting a local turf war problem) but I think, in a very Aussie way, a stand up comedian’s explanation of the Australia Day long weekend to a bunch of visiting Americans as “the day Aussies get drunk and racist:….is a more accurate definition of the majority of Australians. We are upfront and  honest when necessary and can “take the piss” out of ourselves.

Most of us don’t have a problem with a brewery promotion of an Aussie flag for your car when you purchased a “slab” of beer, but “FUCK OFF WE’RE FULL” stickers popping up on bumpers and back windows all over our roads is highly offensive.

A study was done on Flag Waving Vs Non Flag Waving and found racism embedded in the Flag waving fraternity….The University of Western Australia team discovered that most of the 513 people surveyed from several hundred thousand gathered to watch a fireworks display, were fearful of losing their identity. One in five said they had attached flags to their cars.

In his Australia Day address in 2012, neurosurgeon, Charlie Teo, born to Chinese Singaporean parents who immigrated to Australia, called on Australians to use this Australia Day as a time to embrace our immigrant culture and recognize that racism remains a problem in the community.

And as for the birthday I forgot….I will never forget that day.