SEVEN DAYS CITY NEWS AUG 22

Mike Welsh

CYNICAL Canberrans are still scratching their heads over a police crackdown on jaywalking. 

Few can recall such a pedestrian crime being so aggressively policed before. The “pedestrian safety” blitz conducted at Northbourne Avenue and Barry Drive reportedly netted several dozen victims. 

But if authorities are serious about jaywalking (and riding), a revenue-raising goldmine awaits a few blocks west. At any peak time the intersection of Barry Drive and Clunies Ross Street is a very dangerous jaywalking/riding free-for-all.

IT’S now obvious that Canberrans are NOT light rail ready. Rail Safety week came to a shuddering halt on day one after a 61-year-old pedestrian was hit by a tram at a crossing in Civic. The incident brought to an end a string of close calls involving motorists and pedestrians, oblivious to fast-moving trams bearing down on them.

Is it possible warnings by Transport Minister Chris Steel, who described the tram as a “rhino on a skateboard’, and Road Safety Minister Shane Rattenbury (“like getting hit by six elephants at once”) are too complex? One of the first rules of advertising is KISS (keep it simple, stupid). “Stop, look, listen” might be worth a thought.

ANOTHER chapter in the outstanding career of Dr Brendan Nelson closes in December when he retires as director of the Australian War Memorial. I’ve followed Nelson (we share an alma mater) since the late ‘80s when he was a dashing young Hobart GP and future president of the left-leaning AMA, sporting a diamond-stud earring and hooning around town in a hot Commodore.

I next encountered him in the mid ‘90s, campaigning on Sydney’s north shore in the seat of Bradfield, which he won for the Liberals. The party eventually chewed him up and spat him out, but Nelson reinvented himself spectacularly by putting the AWM firmly back in the national consciousness.

Opinion is almost unanimous that he leaves the AWM in far better shape and with a higher profile than when he came into the role seven years ago.

AUSTRALIA’S first (and only) female Nobel laureate has been in Canberra. It appears she and I have a few things in common. A tenuous link I know, but Dr Elizabeth Blackburn, awarded the Nobel prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2009, and I both spent our formative years in the same city (Launceston), and I was a patient of her figuratively and literally larger-than-life GP father. Now based in San Francisco, Dr Blackburn spoke at the Crawford Fund’s 2019 conference at Parliament House. Small world, but I’d hate to vacuum it.

FORMER Bruce bad boy Todd Carney certainly isn’t letting his penis artistry come back to bite him on the bum without a buck involved. He’s turned his infamous toilet party piece into a payday. The 2010 Dally M medallist features in a Sportsbet commercial ending with the tag: “Even whizz kid Todd Carney can use it” and Toddy agrees “Yeah, piece of piss”. The Goulburn-raised athlete has just released a book, “Hard Truth”, about his troubled times.

STILL loitering around the private parts of Raiders players and a local radio newsreader suffered an unfortunate slip of the tongue. Reporting the return of Raider Joey Leilua, Capital Radio’s Beth Rep tripped over “his first game back after surgery on a bulging dick… ah, disc”. Within an hour the audio was being shared all over the country. Small things, they say, amuse small minds.

2CC’s Alan Jones’ directive to PM ScoMo to “shove a sock” down the throat of NZ PM Jacinda Ardern sent social media into a tizz with all the usual vile comments. However, one tweet cleverly fused the shock jock’s misogynistic comments with two of his other favourite pastimes, rugby and motivation. The post urged the All Blacks to use Jones’ “vile slur against the NZ PM” as inspiration for the weekend’s Bledisloe Cup clash. Apparently, Jones’ favourite Kiwi song is Split Enz’ “Sox Months in a Leaky Boat”.

Advertisements

CANBERRA COMMUTE

By Mike Welsh -August 5, 2019Share Canberra’s trusted news:

Seven Days columnist MIKE WELSH reckons it’s getting longer to get around Canberra and the latest national data backs him up.

A LONG daily commute, once only a hassle for big city folks is now apparently an issue here.

The latest national data reveals Canberrans are spending more than double the time getting to work than in 2002.

Arriving in 2003, I often heard the comforting comment: “Nowhere in Canberra is more than 25 minutes away”.

Call me a pedant but I left Mitchell at 9am last Wednesday bound for Reid and made the rookie mistake of taking the light rail-clogged Northbourne Avenue. The 10.5-kilometre journey took 30 minutes. Not serious, but a worrying sign of things to come.

SPEAKING of long commutes, the Bish is back in Canberra, at least on a part-time basis. The WA-based, former deputy Liberal leader ​Julie Bishop​ is to become the ANU’s first female chancellor. Ms Bishop, who won’t take up the position until January, has already been drawn into a scandal that has plagued the prestigious tertiary institution for years.

In 2017, the Human Rights Commission rated the ANU as having double the national average of sexual violence on campus. While welcoming her appointment, two student associations see the former foreign minister’s appointment as “an opportunity to lead the nation in ending sexual violence at Australian universities”.

Lopped and gone… Manuka’s famous plane tree. ​Photo: Mike Welsh

AFTER almost four years of expensive legal squabbles it took mere hours to fell a controversial plane tree hampering a developer’s plans to stimulate business in Manuka. A small crowd assembled on Franklin Street to witness a dexterous demonstration of lopping and slicing by a skilled arborist and team. Most had dispersed by the time the once familiar canopy was no more than a trunk hauled high into the sky by a large crane that then dumped it into a chipping machine.

There was a mixture of comments from those watching. One forthright gentleman in his early 70s unambiguously and loudly suggested “that f…ing tree should have been ripped down four years ago”. However a carefree, millennial woman, suddenly halted by the roar of the chainsaw, exclaimed: “Oh, my god, I thought they had already saved that tree”.

MEANTIME, while Manuka traders are very keen to see the once posh precinct rejuvenated, some are unhappy to rise again under the banner of a tantrum-throwing toddler who sits in Washington’s Oval Office. Morris Property Group, which is developing the old Stuart Flats, has borrowed ​Donald Trump’s​ successful election campaign mantra “Make America Great Again” and is flogging red baseball caps with the slogan “Make Manuka Great Again”.

Loved and gone… Jimmy Barnes with his late dog “Ollie”. ​Photo: Mike Welsh

AT last November’s Kids off Nauru rally at Parliament House I spotted a grumpy looking schnauzer. As the human at the end of its lead squatted down to coax the recalcitrant “Ollie” to pose, I recognised him as Australian rock legend ​Jimmy Barnes​. Sadly, Ollie died last week revealing his hard-rocking master’s soft heart. In a double blow for Barnsie, who lost another dog recently, he tweeted: “Today I lost Oliver. Now both my darling boys are gone. Everything hurts and life will never be the same again. Fly away boys, dad loves you”.

THERE appears to be a distinct lack of sympathy around Canberra for Federal politician ​Barnaby Joyce​. Joyce’s financial bottom line has apparently taken a massive hit after, to use an analogy his New England constituents would understand, he “jumped the fence”. The former accountant should have known that multiplying is more costly than dividing or subtracting.

Share this:

Private school ‘Fight Club’ sets tongues wagging

CANBERRA CITY NEWS JULY 18

By Mike Welsh

DESPITE the non-negotiable first two rules of “Fight Club”, there has been a bit of chatter about a version of the 1999 cult classic operating at one of our private schools.

Word is a fight club during school hours, complete with betting, but modified with boxing gloves, was flourishing on school grounds until being closed down. Those in authority have so far remained faithful to rules one and two, even if some students haven’t.

THE ACT maternity inquiry has heard harrowing stories from local women that have reportedly left committee members “visibly shaken as they sat through evidence, audibly gasping, clasping hands over faces and shedding tears”.

It’s reprehensible and beyond comprehension that such an inquiry is only happening now, given the well-documented toxic culture of bullying and incompetence that has pervaded ACT Health for many years.

DROPPED in the deep end, new Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith quickly found her stroke. Ms Stephen-Smith said she “welcomed the inquiry and the women’s evidence”, but soon reverted to standard spin: “Every day our hospitals and clinical staff strive to provide the best possible birthing services and to do this in a compassionate and supportive way.” No consolation for the unnecessary heartache endured by many while the official line of “it’s no worse than any other jurisdiction” was adhered to rigidly.

IF you think you’ve heard all the things we Canberrans regularly whinge about, think again, there’s a new one. At least new to me. Petrol prices, the tram, the bubble, the weather, old trees, new trees, pill testing, roo culling, parking and – the lifeless Jolimont Centre.

Even on the coldest, meanest July day in Canberra a dog poking its head out of a car never fails to amuse and lift the spirits of our columnist. He spotted this beautiful character at Cooleman Court helping its human locate a parking space. Photo: Mike Welsh

Senior “SMH” journalist Stephanie Peatling tweeted (possibly while waiting for a midnight bus): “Although I am a big defender of Murrays bus service, the Jolimont Centre does lack a certain joie de vivre”.

Many agreed with Peatling with tweets such as: “It’s a soulless place” and “It’s no Grand Central Station”. But some prefer the centre just as it is, posting: “Pleasantly unvarnished” and “I’d rather keep it cheerful and cheap than pay extra for a barista”.

LEGENDARY radio man John Laws reads “CityNews” or, at least, this column. Laws was “flattered” by a recent piece in which I rated Alan Jones as “a brilliant broadcaster second only to John Laws, with daylight third”. The nice thank-you note I received from the man once described as having a voice that would curl a frangipani, made my day. Still on making one’s day, the last time I spoke with Laws we talked about who would play him in the movie. Clint Eastwood.

ACT Police have issued a blunt warning to ram raiders after a high number of smash-and-grabs in the region. While playing down the recent spate of aggravated burglaries (18 so far this year), as “cyclical”, Sgt Shane Scott’s message is: “We’re looking for ya and we’re going to get ya”.

CHINESE stand-up Ronny Chieng slayed a sell-out Canberra Theatre crowd without, refreshingly, resorting to the stand-up’s lazy and cliched Canberra fall back of porn, fireworks and roundabout jokes. The 33-year-old star of “Crazy Rich Asians” now lives in New York City where he’s part of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah.

A PAINFUL anniversary of one of Canberra’s most horrific days was remembered on Saturday. It was July 13, 1997 that 12-year-old Katie Bender was killed after debris from the demolition implosion of the Royal Canberra Hospital rained down on more than 100,000 people gathered around the lake. Bender, who was more than 400 metres from the site on Acton Peninsula, was killed instantly when struck by a piece of flying metal.

WHEN SLOBBERING SIR LES RATTLED THE GATES

By Mike Welsh – July 8, 2019 Share Canberra’s trusted news:

Seven Days columnist MIKE WELSH reflects on a week in the life in Canberra. 

THE gravitas of the office of Governor-General remains safe after the smooth transition from Sir Peter Cosgrove to David Hurley. But there was a time when the sobriety and decorum of the role was seriously disrespected. 

It was the day in 2003 when 23rd GG Peter Hollingworth resigned. A drunken, loudmouthed former diplomat turned up at the gatehouse to Yarralumla’s most prestigious address, demanding to be admitted.

Shouting: “Let me in, let me in”, the dishevelled, slobbering interloper with suitcase on wheels and large media pack in tow, was none other than cultural attache to the Court of St James, Sir Les Patterson, who felt his turn in the vice-regal gig had come. The brilliant publicity stunt was arranged by promoter to the stars Coralie Wood to drum up ticket sales for the Canberra leg of yet another Barry Humphries touring show.

Alan Jones will present the 2CC morning show from July 15.

LISTENER reaction to 2CC’s shock decision to outsource its breakfast show won’t be known until October when results from GfK’s Canberra radio survey are released. The struggling station will simulcast Alan Jones’ 2GB breakfast show from Sydney. Dislodged breakfast host Tim Shaw moves to drive (3pm-6pm).

The move is smart business. Jones is a brilliant broadcaster and, in my humble opinion, second only to John Laws, with daylight third. Given Shaw’s soft ratings, Jones (who will be much cheaper) will rate highly and provide his GB stablemate Ray Hadley with the greater Canberra lead-in audience he’s been demanding for years.

Goodbye to the “Human Headline”, Derryn Hinch. Photo: Mike Welsh

FORMER shock-jock and now former Justice Party senator Derryn Hinch has left his mark on the capital. The “Human Headline”, who has returned to TV and SkyNews, has had the pathway to his favourite Canberra bar named in his honour and made safer.

Before leaving Canberra, he cut the ribbon to “Hinch Way”, a new, improved path to Ostani Bar and Restaurant at Barton’s Hotel Realm where he had a fall in the dark last year.

TRANSPORT Canberra is dexterous in disciplining staff if nothing else. The body managed to slap the wrist of an employee’s heavy handed approach to a suspected light-rail fare evader. TC has apologised to the teenager who was booted off the tram after failing to produce a student ID. Executive group manager for Transport Canberra Judith Sturman mitigated the incident, explaining staff are on a “learning curve”.

CANBERRA renters may have stumbled upon an inexpensive method of keeping warmer this winter. Local renters are bubble wrapping their windows to retain heat. Advocacy group Better Renting, which offers the home visit scheme “Home Truths”, says the DIY insulation can cut heating bills by up to 50 per cent.

The homeless campsite in Civic. Photo: Mike Welsh

AND spare a thought for those forced to sleep rough during a harsh Canberra winter. A campsite has materialised just metres from one of our major traffic thoroughfares. It’s possibly the same camp that until recently was briefly located in Glebe Park across from building giant Geocon’s city office. But any awkward juxtaposition was eliminated when the camp moved to West Basin before relocating to its present Civic site.

THE ANU AFL club won’t forget a recent road trip to Batemans Bay quickly. Three players ended up at the local ED, with two requiring some serious needle work after a clashing of heads in the final seconds of a game against the Batemans Bay SeaHawks. A hospital official said it had been a quiet afternoon until the wounded Griffos landed

BARR’S LIGHT-RAIL ANALOGY TAKES THE PRIZE

By Mike Welsh – July 1, 2019

Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s light-rail analogy to explain away the shock resignation of tipped Labor leadership aspirant Meegan Fitzharris took the prize, says Seven Days columnist MIKE WELSH

ALL the usual, overused cliches were wheeled out in the wake of the shock resignation of senior ACT minister Meegan Fitzharris

The dependable duo of “spending more time with the family” and “difficult decision”, were mixed with the plausible “time is right” and the elusive “work/life balance”. 

But it was Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s light-rail analogy that took the prize. Barr explained: “The tracks of your life are laid down for another four years if you commit to the process, so now is the time to be making those sorts of decisions.”

Barr’s pragmatism could be code for “covering your (tram) tracks” or referencing an out-of-control train “hurtling down the line”. Two questions remain: was the Yerrabi Express politically derailed due to an overloaded baggage car? Or did Ms Fitzharris simply bite off more than she could “Choo Choo”?

THE Canberra Airport managing director has gone into bat for our society’s marginalised. Stephen Byron, who participated in the recent Vinnies CEO sleepout in an airport hangar, says the Newstart allowance is “so low it’s a joke”. Byron, who raised more than $70,000 for the annual fundraiser, says the benefit should be increased by $75 a week. Most economists agree, suggesting the increase would stimulate the economy and create employment.

STILL at the sleepout and there were a few sniggers from among the high flyers who’d stepped into the shoes of the homeless, doing it tough for a few hours. At sunrise, as the bleary-eyed participants packed up their cardboard mattresses, a chauffeur wandered through the homeless hangar to whisk his charge back to their real world.

FORMER Brumbies star Clyde Rathbone has confused social-media followers with bizarre comments on fellow former Wallaby Israel Folau. In an opinion piece on the online platform PlayersVoice, the South African-born player appeared to be standing by Izzy.

“I feel for him as a person. He’s got strange ideas in his head and didn’t necessarily choose them,” he wrote. 

“He appears to be caught up in a relatively small community of zealots”. But unhelpfully Rathbone, or “Rattlebones” to his mates, later tweeted: “For three million I will make sweet love to Israel Folau. We can even do it in a church to make sure it’s not gay sex. Call me @IzzyFolau”.

IN these days of rapidly disappearing provincial TV newsrooms comes a documentary on the demise of a local news bulletin that had run for 40 years. Canberra commercial radio producer/journalist Daniel Pizarro has put together “Ten Capital News: The final days”. The 20-minute production featuring the anchorman’s anchorman Greg Robson, with contributions from Greg HughesVirginia Haussegger and ABC anchor Craig Allenchronicles the end of the one-hour bulletin, axed in November 2001. Pizarro plans to enter the doco in festivals beginning with September’s Canberra Film Festival.

IF Canberra isn’t the tailgate capital of Australia I’ll wager it’s in the top two. I’ve long wished for a better and more apt way to respond to the impatient bully bearing down on me. “Dangerous dickhead” lost its power long ago. But thanks to one of our National Living Treasures, I feel better knowing someone else considers tailgaters to be the worst of the worst. In his regular column in “The Australian” Phillip Adams writes: “Whilst opposed to capital punishment, I reckon tailgaters deserve the death penalty”.

AND still in traffic, an update on the rogue cyclist I wrote about on June 13 (playing chicken with four lanes of peak-hour traffic) who was at it again this week. This time his arrogant antics were met with a chorus of blasting horns. His response was to boldly give them and anyone else in the vicinity the middle finger. Seems while most of us are bound to obey road rules there are some, often cyclists, who apparently have been given special dispensation from annoying and tedious regulations.

CANBERRA CITY NEWS JUNE 6

By Mike Welsh

SPARE a thought for recently re-elected ALP member for Fenner Andrew Leigh.

Poor sod spent countless hours smiling on early morning TV and arguing on late night “Q&A”, building a national profile, only to find himself on the backbench. 

The factionally unaligned Leigh was heading for a ministry in a Shorten government, but has been overlooked for a spot on Albo’s opposition team.

ANU economist Warwick McKibbin’s tweet: “When Andrew Leigh, the best economist in the parliament is not in the shadow ministry, you know something is wrong”, may test Leigh’s commitment to Labor’s cause. And the general consensus that Albo’s team is lined with “mediocrities”, would add to Leigh’s misery.

THE cruel dumping hasn’t dampened Leigh’s liking for a sledge, though. Leigh tweeted: “Since 2016, Labor has had a shadow minister for charities, now the Coalition has decided to copy the idea. Just two small downsides: 1. It’s an assistant minister. 2. It’s Zed Seselja. Perhaps they should be honest, and call him the assistant minister against charities?” Seselja fired back: “On the other hand, there appears to be little downside for the ALP in dumping you”. Ouch !!

FANS of angry-old-man-radio are pleased to learn Alan Jones remains on the wireless until at least his 80th birthday. AJ signed a two-year contract with 2GB, which relays parts of his breakfast show to Canberra via 2CC. The shock jock’s stablemate Ray Hadley, recently touted as a replacement should Jones “walk”, was quoted as being “comfortable” with the signing. Sources from inside the conservative bunker suggest Hadley is anything but.

RUGBY superstar David Pocock usually has plenty to say on issues dear to his heart but was more measured recently. As the sporting media gathered to hear his plans of enhancing his World Cup chances by quitting Super League and the Brumbies, Pocock virtually confirmed a post-rugby political career by impressively sidestepping the inevitable question about his future.

The South African-born athlete, who came to the capital in 2013, said: “The Brumbies have given me a home for the last seven years. They’ve supported me through injury and given me the opportunity to work on my game and my leadership as part of an incredible group of men”. 

The activist also thanked fans and the city: “Canberra has well and truly become my home. Em and I love living here, being part of the community.”

THE shock 2017 announcement of Belconnen Myer’s closure has been reversed. After a “new lease arrangement” was reached between the retail giant and Scentre (operator of Westfield), a downsized Myer will emerge at the Belconnen landmark.

AT nearby Hawker the pharmacy is now under the bright purple and orange banner of the Hawker Discount Drug Store, part of a chain spreading down the east coast and through the ACT. One local wag, showing his age, wanted to know if the drug store sold “ice-cream sodas” and if “Richie Cunningham and The Fonz would be dropping by”.

CANBERRA AFL stalwart Aaron Bruce has reached a special milestone in his long career. The Canberra Demons’ skipper notched up 150 NEAFL games, becoming only the fourth player in the comp’s history to do so.

Rupert Murdoch may be spending more time at his Yass weekender after the announcement of a new news site dedicated to Canberra (the ‘burbs not the bubble). Murdoch, who started “The Australian” in Braddon in 1964 has launched the Canberra Star digital-only site that will focus on “connecting with local communities who are often seeking new ways to stay in touch with what’s happening on their doorstep”.

FRIGHTENING reports are emerging across social media of food, possibly laced with poison, being tossed into Canberra backyards. A Flynn dog owner warned owners to be vigilant after her dog returned home with dark chocolate in its mouth. And a Bonython resident reported finding a raw chicken stuffed with rat poison in her yard.

Share this: