CANBERRA CITY NEWS DEC 5

“Seven Days” columnist MIKE WELSH reflects on another astonishing week in the nation’s capital.

MOTHER Nature has been giving the capital a decent whack. Early week high temperatures suddenly plummeted with snow forecast for the Brindabellas while bushfires loomed around Braidwood. A dust storm became a smoke haze and high winds whipped up a “swell” on Lake Burley Griffin.

Thanks for nothing! Photo: Mike Welsh

STILL on matters meteorological, spare a thought for the skywriter tasked with the relatively simple job of writing “Thanks Team”. A rare window opened on Wednesday between heavy dust storms and thick smoke haze, offering clear blue skies. Not wishing to pan the penmanship of the pilot, but by the time they began “team”, “thanks” resembled an ultrasound image.

MAJOR players in Canberra’s building industry are crying foul over pressure from the Barr government to run dodgy builders out of town. The directors say the government’s approach is “misdirected”, suggesting it should “stop hassling head office and get out on construction sites if it wants to improve building quality”.

Barry Morris, director of the Morris Property Group, says: “Developers were not to blame for problems around building quality. The ACT government is going the wrong way on the food chain.”

Is it possible the local construction industry has fallen victim to TBS (Tall Building Syndrome)? 

The PM’s Stunt double. PIC SUPPLIED

ON the lawns of Parliament House, local students participated in a Climate Classroom Rally. Organisers say “the aim of the action is to show the Australian Parliament what real democracy looks like; teaching each other about climate crisis and working together as an inclusive community.” The Prime Minister was invited but due to a constant caning inside a stunt double was wheeled out.

ALL the usual cliches, from “rumbles” through to a “united party” were also wheeled out in the days following reports of a local Liberal leadership spill. A small number of “disaffected” members, concerned they couldn’t win the 2020 election with ultra-conservative Alistair Coe, were reportedly urging Elizabeth Lee to step up.

A self-imposed confidentiality agreement prevents me from naming who I believe would lead the local Libs out of the wilderness. However, if the “status Coe” remains we will miss the rare opportunity of having the nation’s first colour-blind, race-calling, ex-radio announcer as CM, and may be forced to endure the spectacle of a rebranded Alistair (“call me Al”) Coe in a baseball cap, thumbs up, drinking beer with randoms at sporting events for the next 12 months.

NOT missing the free kick, Chief Minister Andrew Barr offered a running commentary on the disharmony, describing the libs as “the most right wing of any party room in Australia”, adding Alistair Coe “is the most conservative leader the Liberals have ever had”.

ACT Greens leader Corrections Minister Shane Rattenbury will be looking for 2019 to end. The member for Molonglo has had a horror year with attacks coming from all sides, mostly over his handling of the troublesome Alexander Maconochie Centre. 

Nicknamed “the rat” by local greyhound trainers protesting a ban on their sport in 2017, the MLA will be hoping 2020, “the year of the rat”, will bring relief. 

INTERNATIONAL diplomacy comes in many forms but it’s unusual for an ambassador to be bagging his country’s capital. The latest round of Canberra Bashing came from veteran diplomat Gary Quinlan, our ambassador to Indonesia. 

Responding to a question at the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club about plans to move Indonesia’s capital from Jakarta to the island of Kalimantan, Quinlan said Canberra was “one of the biggest national mistakes we ever made”. Quinlan warned a lesson locals could learn from the Canberra model is it was too spread out in the early days and “had no natural centre”.

Apple’s got you snapped. Photo: Mike Welsh

WHILE Mr Quinlan may have fallen out of love with Canberra one tech giant is keen to look deeper into our city. An Apple Maps white Subaru with what appears to be an R2D2 type robot strapped to its roof has been cruising around gathering images and information for its new “Look Around” feature.

CAN THE PLAN CONVOY COMES TO CANBERRA

THREE thousand frustrated Southern Riverina farmers rolled into Canberra demanding the government rips up the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

The farmers had a clear message for Minister for Water David Littleproud and local member (Farrer) Sussan Ley and other politicans. Rip up the MDBP.

Bob Katter turned up to compare lids with the undertaker conducting the burial of the MDBP

Political parasites Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts swooped on the disenchanted conservative country crowd in the hope of picking up some of the votes on offer.

Weather-beaten Akubras dominated the fashions on the field
NO FARMERS NO FOOD
Protecting the fortress from angry farmers
Quiet Australians getting noisy

CITY NEWS OCT 24

Columnist MIKE WELSH is back for another “Seven Days” in the life of Canberra. 

CANBERRA climate activists’ second attempt to disrupt the city amused and entertained locals rather than achieved the serious gridlock aim of such rallies worldwide.

Around 150 protesters responded to the local chapter of Extreme Rebellion’s call to “swarm and shut down the city, occupy intersections, show Canberra business-as-usual can’t continue!”

The mob, chanting “no planet, no future” did close the intersection of Lonsdale and Cooyong Streets for five minutes, but traffic had all but disappeared or been diverted by the large number of police in attendance.

Canberra Centre shoppers whipped out mobile phones to record the entertainment and after-work diners and drinkers in Braddon good naturedly heckled the mob, which finished its walk with a “die in” on London Circuit.

Extreme Rebellion protestors “swarming” the city. Photo: Mike Welsh

IF the near hysterical social media response to news our humongous hot-air balloon Skywhale was homeward bound is any indication, next year’s balloon festival will be a huge success.

Tweets, from the positive “made my day” to the clever “Hindenboob is coming home”, the exaggerated “most Canberra thing ever” to the wildly inflated “greatest day in Australian history since Lady Denman declared Canberra the name of the new capital”, have set the scene for an exciting homecoming for the floating sculpture.

Youthful Skywhale in 2013. Photo: Martin Ollman.

A 2018 “New York Times” article described the multi-mammoried monster as having “a head like a turtle, a body like a giant crustacean, 10 bulbous, hanging breasts, one thing is certain: It is hard to ignore the Skywhale”. But the then ACT Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson spat: “embarrassing indulgence” when it first floated over the capital in 2013.

Gus’ cafe… going, but coming back? Photo: Mike Welsh

STILL on all things Canberra, one genuine icon is about to be scuttled to make way for a luxury new hotel. Bunda Street landmark cafe Gus’ stands in the way of a multi-million dollar, 11-storey hotel planned for Garema Place by property developer Geocon. The developer says it will rebuild the cafe within the new hotel.

THE 2018 “Australian National Dictionary’s” word of the year, the “Canberra bubble” is not as contemporary asScoMo would have us believe. Addressing the national prayer breakfast at Parliament House, Governor-General David Hurleycryptically joked: “Even in the days of the Old Testament, God was aware of the Canberra bubble”, quoting Proverbs 11.13: “for lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers”.

STILL with “lights on the hill”, member for Fenner Andrew Leigh has attempted to prick the fabled bubble which has formed around Federal parliament. In an opinion piece on Parliament House for “The Canberra Times” the MP chronicled the ordinary folk “who make it hum”. Leigh says: “I doubt I’ll work in a more beautiful place than parliament… as our feet crunch across the red gravel towards the front entrance, each of us keenly feels the privilege of serving Australians”.

MEANWHILE, the man who once vowed to empty Canberra of its public servants has also confessed his delight at working in Canberra. Drought envoy and former National Party leader Barnaby Joyce posted a pic of Parliament House with the cheesy caption: “It still gives me a thrill going to work”.

I was invited (or I thought I was) to lobby group GetUp’s National Director Paul Oosting‘s address to the National Press Club last Wednesday. But there were hoops through which I had to jump to claim my “special” invitation to the free event. 

I needed to fill out an expression of interest by sharing something about myself in 100 words or less. Then, should I be “chosen” I would be notified of my good fortune. My 15-word bio: “Just an honest campaigner prepared to go anywhere for free alcohol and a loaded smorgasbord” was probably never going to make the final cut.

I wasn’t chosen but the cheeky bastards had the gall to hit me up for a regular monthly contribution of $8 to help “fund the great work we are doing”.

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F*CK ME NOT THE PLANET

Seven Days columnist MIKE WELSH wonders about the propriety of the climate protest by girls from a northside private school.  citynews.com.au

MOST students attending Canberra’s Global Climate Strike rally skipped classes with their schools’ blessing. But should those in charge at one northside private, Christian school be more engaged in students attending future protests?

In a sea of provocative signs, including one featuring Scott Morrison holding a lump of coal, captioned “Old King Coal was a Merry Arsehole”, four female students from the faith-based school in full uniform proudly held a placard which took the “make-love-not-war” mantra of their grandparents’ era to a new level.

FROM an oversharing generation to a member of one who should know better comes this pre-Midwinter Ball overshare story. Former ABC breakfast TV host Virginia Trioli tweeted: “Travelling from Melbourne to Canberra with a thousand yards of tulle on a nail-bitingly tight flight for the Parliament #midwinter ball. Hair and make-up will be done in the lav: Apologies to all on board”.

Within an hour “The Australian” was reporting an in-flight tantrum, alleging one ball guest had their knickers in a bunch en route about the placement of her $5000 dress. The paper later retracted its reportage and made a personal apology to Trioli.

THERE’S a booze ban at Bruce. As the city turns greener, Raiders players got “on the wagon” from Mal Meninga Medal night onwards in order to be clear headed for Friday’s preliminary final against South Sydney.

A “Sydney Morning Herald” piece on coaches’ eccentricities: “The traits that make the NRL’S coaching kingpins a cut above”, attempts to psychoanalyse Raiders’ coach Ricky Stuart. The article, by Phil Lutton, also speculates on Wayne BennettCraig Bellamyand Des Hasler, suggesting many “are deeply eccentric. Some are superstitious, others make a point of dispensing with the mystical and building their empires on relentless work and dedication”.

According to Lutton, Stuart falls into the paranoia group: “His team v the world when Ricky Stuart, master of the siege mentality, is on deck”.

IT’S been a busy week on the hill with all manner of visitors, including a Peregrine falcon called Floyd. The bird came to the rescue of Parliament House horticulturalists who are again drowning in duck droppings and ducking dive-bombing magpies. Federal Parliament’s pristine gardens and forecourt are under attack and Floyd has been tasked with dispersing the menacing Maggies and ducks with diarrhoea.

Three days walking from Collector to protest press freedom… 77-year-old Adrienne Carpenter and her dog Phoebe. Photo: Mike Welsh

A 77-year-old Collector woman and her dog had a message for Canberra on press freedoms and walked from her home to deliver it. Adrienne Carpenter says: “When I heard about [lawyer] Bernard Collaery, I just had to do something”.

Adrienne and Phoebe pushed her “Freedom of the Press” baby pram 70 kilometres over three days, camping overnight in the snow at Lake George.

LAST September Falun Gong practitioners assembled on Parliament House lawns highlighting the widespread practice of human organ harvesting in China. But their protest was thwarted as inside, political practitioners including senators Derryn Hinch and Pauline Hanson, were slobbering over visiting superstar Olivia Newton-John.

Ditto this week, only this time starstruck pollies were fawning over the likes of Hugo Weaving and Rhys Muldoon in town, again, to lobby for more local content in the local film industry, as the Falun Gong, again, lobbied on the lawns in silence.

SEEMINGLY the country’s first human rights compliant correctional facility, the Alexander Maconochie Centre unofficially goes the extra mile on conjugal visits, with reports of male inmates penetrating the wall between them and the girls since 2017. An internal probe found a male prisoner had jumped into the women’s section in April and attempted to have sex with a female inmate but the action was scuttled after male prisoners watching became overly excited.

THE ABC journalist reporting snow blocking the Hume Highway at Goulburn didn’t put much thought into his piece to camera after Tuesday’s unseasonal weather event. The young man confidently told his audience the “spring dump caused truckies to be severely backed up”!

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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”.

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.

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