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.
Each soldier had a distinct family, laugh, voice, name, and soul. They were sons, fathers, husbands, brothers, fiancés. In another life, some had been clerks, shopkeepers, students, ministers, teachers. Beyond the heart’s capacity to reason, 6,046 were killed every day in the Great War — a war that lasted 1,566 days. If we gave each fallen soldier thirty seconds of silence, we would be sitting still for nine unbroken years.
Unbroken — something that did not describe many of these men. A 19-year-old Irishman, serving as Second Lieutenant in the British army, gives one of the most chilling descriptions of what he observed as he fought on the frontline:
The frights, the cold, the smell of H.E. [high explosives], the horribly smashed men still moving like half-crushed beetles, the sitting or standing corpses, the landscape of sheer earth without a blade of grass, the boots worn day and night till they seemed to grow to your feet. (Surprised by Joy, 240)
Men, horribly smashed, moved like half-crushed beetles. “Standing or sitting corpses.” The young Irishman, very different from the great C.S. Lewis he would later become, wrote poetry about seeing men’s stomachs “fall out on their knees.” Men, with someone waiting for their return; men, made in the image of their Creator; men, some of whom were not much more than children — reduced to twitch and tremor like dying insects. Physically on the battlefield, or psychologically when traumatized, they were carried home.
Amidst humankind’s greatest parody of hell on earth to date, a song broke into the darkness of World War I. The war had not ended, but light had dawned for a night. Many present recounted it as one of the highlights of their lives. Soldiers wrote that they would not have preferred to celebrate anywhere else that Christmas Eve, 1914. The stoic Wall Street Journal would even report, “What appears from the winter fog and misery is a Christmas story, a fine Christmas story that is, in truth, the most faded and tattered of adjectives: inspiring.”
Josef Wenzl, a soldier in the German infantry that night, described it to his parents in a letter: “Between the trenches, the hated and bitter opponents meet around the Christmas tree and sing Christmas carols. This once in a lifetime vision I will not forget.” In a functional graveyard appropriately named “No-Man’s Land,” one of the most inspiring Christmas stories of the century unfolded.
The Landscape of Truce
Five months earlier, the curtains of war opened, unveiling combat machines the world had never seen. Mobs of soldiers marching side by side in traditional fashion were systematically mowed down by machine guns and devoured by hailstorms of artillery fire.
To escape the barrage of bullets and explosions, men burrowed into the ground. Thousands of miles of zigzagged ditches lined both Eastern and Western fronts, making the trench the symbol of the First World War. Both sides held trenches paralleling the other, usually about 100 to 400 yards away.
What was trench life like? Dan Carlin suggests imagining yourself going out in your backyard, digging a hole, and living there day after day. Then add decaying bodies and rotting limbs. Also, flood them with constant rainfall which would make your boot-wearing feet balloon and ache (trench foot) and the decomposing bodies “float to the surface.”
Finish it off with rats “that were the size of cats,” an endemic of fever-spreading body-lice, never-ending mud, moans and whimpers from mostly-dead men, and a stench that allowed you to smell the front line long before you could see it — never forgetting that thousands of men, paid to kill you, squatted a football field away and possessed the most lethal weapons known to man at that time. In cold, wet holes in the ground lived millions of soldiers at war.
First, Christmas Eve
Leading up to Christmas Eve on the Western front, the weather started the truce: it got colder. The frost not only brought an idyllic, “fictional Christmas,” but more importantly, it hardened the liquefied mud of the trench floors.
As the sun began to set, Albert Moren of the Second Queen’s Regiment described what happened next:
It was a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere; and . . . there was a lot of commotion in the German trenches and then were those lights — I don’t know what they were. And then they sang “Silent Night.” I shall never forget it. It was one of the highlights of my life.
“Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” (“Silent night, holy night”) danced past putrefying corpses lying in “No-Man’s Land” to crouch in enemy trenches. The lights lining the top of German trenches, which Albert failed to discern, were thousands of candled Christmas trees.
Private William Quinton, of the Second Bedfordshire Regiment, described it this way:
Something in the direction of the German lines caused us to rub our eyes and look again. Here and there, showing just above their parapet, we could see very faintly what looked like very small colored lights. . . . We were very suspicious and were discussing this strange move of the enemy, when something even stranger happened. The Germans were actually singing!
Some assumed it was a sniper trap to get Allied soldiers to peer over their parapets. However, as spontaneous carols, banter, and shouts of “Merry Christmas” shot between the miles of trenches, suspicions soothed. Germans even threw boots full of chocolates and shouted out in the enemy tongue, “English soldiers! English soldiers!” “Happy Christmas! Where are your Christmas trees?” “No shoot tonight. Sing tonight!” “You no shoot. We no shoot!”
Emboldened by song and reciprocated joking, a few men took things further: they requested to meet in the middle of “No-Man’s Land.” Seemingly suicidal, a few soldiers began climbing from the safety of their trench, risking their lives to socialize with the mortal foe. Both sides watched, with their hands on their rifles. Slowly, the trenches began lightening. “The Christmas spirit” as historian Modris Eksteins described, began to “conquer the battlefield.”
Then, Christmas Day
After thousands of men gathered the night before, tens of thousands would gather in “No-Man’s Land” on Christmas Day. They gathered — illegally — to sing, exchange gifts of cigars and puddings, and talk (as best they could). One Brit gave a German a haircut. Some reportedly raced bikes they found in abandoned houses. They fought ferociously — on the soccer field, laughing hysterically at the Scots whose behinds shone as their kilts flapped in the wind.
They also took the opportunity to bury the festering corpses. They conducted some joint funeral services which moved both sides profoundly. The whole scene “was absolutely astounding,” Captain Sir Edward Hulse of the Scots guard commented, “and if I had seen it on cinematograph film I should have sworn it was faked!”
The truces ended as mysteriously as they began. Sentiments were shared, such as, “Today, we have peace. Tomorrow, you fight for your country; I fight for mine. Good luck!” Although a good number of sectors extended the truce through New Year’s Day, one way or another, the carnage inevitably resumed. This was a truce, not peace. Many of the soldiers who celebrated the Christmas Truce of 1914 would not survive the war.
God’s Christmas Truce
Too often, this story concludes with humanist commentary upon the goodwill of man shining amidst utter barbarity. Vague colors of hope and peace shine above parapets. We forget that the miraculous truce dawned on the celebration of a child’s birthday — not Muhammad’s, Buddha’s, Darwin’s, Nietzsche’s, or Gandhi’s — but Jesus Christ’s.
This is fitting, not only because angels speak of peace on earth at his birth (Luke 2:14), nor merely because his is the only name given among men by which they must be saved (Acts 4:12), but because he himself is the Great Terms of Christmas Truce for all mankind. What appeared from the winter fog and misery of a world submerged in darkness is a Christmas story, that is, in truth, the most faded and tattered of adjectives: redeeming.
This story found humanity, since Genesis 3, standing upright in his trench, not minding his God or his warnings. He sang, “Peace, peace,” to his neighbor where there was no peace. And God’s response: more scandalous than meeting for a soccer game. His gift: costlier than cigars or plum pudding. He had more than chocolates to throw or haircuts to give.
To us a child was born; to us a son was given (Isaiah 9:6). “And he shall be their peace” (Micah 5:5). As Spurgeon heralded, “The swaddling band with which he was wrapped up was the white flag of peace. That manger was the place where the treaty was signed.” And that treaty was signed in his blood. Men emptied their wrath. Satan spent his ammo. Christ drank damnation under the doomsday device of the divine (Isaiah 53:10). In the No-Man’s Land of Calvary, he secured “peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20).
While all of heaven looked on, we have heard a commotion in God’s trench. He sang a gospel song on that silent night, that holy night: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). And he still sings, calling rebels from their rat-infested hole to meet his glorious Prince of Peace. Only through faith in him can we have “peace with God” (Romans 5:1). And this peace bestows adoption, a kingdom, and fullness of life with him forever.
FINALLY a clinical, calm and educated explanation of what went wrong with Karl Stefanovic. At Nine not at home. That’s a whole other story.
It seems that all it takes to tame a TV bad boy is to plonk a good woman next to him on the couch. Simple.
The Australian’s Caroline Overington has pointed out that if only we would stop clicking on Karl stories (in gossip mags) and stop clicking off commercial TV and if Nine had been a bit more grown up over the (reasonable) demands of Lisa Wilkinson this whole circus would have folded its tent months ago.
“The Nine Network is looking for ways to survive in this new environment. That’s why this year it bought Fairfax Media, not for the investigative journalism but for the online properties, especially real estate website Domain, and for Stan, the streaming service, which is perhaps the future.
Caroline Overington The Australian
Apparently the two major TV breakfast shows — Today on the Nine Network and Sunrise on Seven — simply don’t pull the punters in they way they once did.
— if he’d had a supportive woman by his side on the Today couch, somebody mature enough to understand that long marriages do sometimes end, that people can and do move on, that it’s nobody’s business really, that everything will be OK, provided the kids are all right …
Caroline Overington The Australian
And is there such a supportive woman out there?
“Lisa Wilkinson! Karl’s on-screen partner for a decade. But Nine let Lisa walk. At a time of its great, existential crisis, for the sake of maybe $200,000 a year — a couple of Chicken Tonight ads — they let the most mature and stable presence on the show walk out the door”.
Just like the dinosaurs of our contempory political movements and their new “endose a women” mantra, the boys in TV are reportedy turning breakfast TV on its head with Nine – according to an insider- seriously searching for two women to wake up with. Lisa Wilkinson back on the breakfast couch while Karl sleeps off a hangover from another time in another room.
THE centenary of the Armistice was a busy time for Florey man Don Longridge. As a member of Canberra’s Military Reenactment Group – a national living-history group – Don attended several functions across the region serving as a “silent soldier”, handing out information without speaking.
Recently returned from the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Verdun in France, Don also represents family member Pte Francis Craymor Whitfield, who died in 1916 at the first Battle of the Somme.
A RECENT survey revealing a disturbingly high percentage of Canberra women who feel unsafe in public after dark has elicited stories from other women who are regularly harassed in broad daylight. One woman reports being regularly “cat-called” from passing vehicles as she jogs across Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. Another says she is also frequently “cat called” and was once followed during an early morning run around the lake.
Saying neigh to horse racing… Cup Day protesters. Photo by Reeni Martinez
IF a local animal rights group has its way, the crowds that head to Thoroughbred Park on Melbourne Cup Day to party will need a new venue. But an attempt by the fledgling Anti-Speciesist Collective this year to shame people entering the event, along with intermittent rain and winds, failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the 5000-strong crowd.
The group set up a protest at the entrance to the venue displaying images and statements of what it called the “dark side” of the sport of kings and urged racegoers to support a petition to ban horse racing in Canberra. The protestors, who joined a nation-wide Cup Day campaign, view horse racing as “countless horses used and abused for entertainment all year round”. The group has also demonstrated at the Bungendore Rodeo and the Queanbeyan Show
The member for Fenner, Andrew Leigh, has gone from being called a “weird cat” earlier this year by the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to being a serious threat to the national economy. An opinion piece by Dr Leigh in “The New York Times” was labelled by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg as “a pathetic attack on his own country”, putting him firmly in the sights of the LNP attack dogs.
The Treasurer urged Labor leader Bill Shorten to rebuke his shadow assistant treasurer while two LNP MPs have called for Leigh to be sacked.
TWO pieces of protest poetry have appeared on security fencing at the redevelopment of a section of the Curtin shops. The more provocative of the two targets developer Nick Haridemos and reads:
Nicolas keeps his fence so clean
But what’s behind it is obscene
The empty shops the story tell
Curtin community go to hell
He wants a tower in the air
For the Master Plan he doesn’t care
THE second part of the posted “prose” seemingly predicts a positive outcome for the community group that has been at loggerheads with developers and their plans for several years. Signed by Vikki and Michael, of Nelson Place, the piece says:
But Mr Gentleman knows the rules
And the Curtin community are not fooled
So let’s enjoy the sun and wait
For a ministerial decision to CELEBRATE!
FORMER 2CA breakfast radio announcer Frank Vincent, who was sacked by Capital Radio in January after a female journalist made allegations of sexual harassment, has issued a statement. Posted on the radio industry site “Jocks’ Journal”, Vincent describes a recently resolved defamation claim against “The Canberra Times” as “hats off, respect to all concerned. I’m so glad we’ve got this matter sorted!”
Vincent boasts “an unblemished, 40-year career” during which he has “enjoyed the respect and support of colleagues” including media heavyweights Doug Mulray, Wendy Harmer, Jessica Rowe, Andrew Denton and Georgie Gardiner.
AFTER a week of the predictably unpredictable Canberra spring weather, an opportunity to tweet about the weather has presented itself. The twitter account @CanberraWeather is up for grabs. The account which has been around since 2007 and has more than 2000 followers, offered: “Want to run this account? DM@cmrn”.
A CANBERRA man who has been suffering for more than 60 years on an almost daily basis from the effects of sexual abuse, says the National Apology speech “finally got it”.
Raped by a Catholic teaching brother in Tasmania at the age of eight, 71-year-old Chris was anxious and undecided about attending the historic event. He’s now glad he did.
Chris said the speeches by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and opposition leader Bill Shorten – which brought him to tears – “captured the mood”, and while the pain of abuse will never fade, attending the event enabled him to “climb another mountain”.
AFTER the official ceremony Morrison visited Parliament House lawns where he moved comfortably among hundreds of sexual-abuse survivors, their families and supporters, chatting, hugging and patiently listening to their painful stories.
As his minders became anxious, the PM had run way over time, ’70s pop heartthrob Daryl Braithwaite came to the rescue. The former Sherbet front man and his band rocked into the first bars of their set giving ScoMo the cue to move. With a quick nod to Braithwaite the PM and his posse were gone.
A TWEET from independent senator Derryn Hinch – also a child sex-abuse survivor – perfectly captured the mood on the lawns of Parliament House. Hinch tweeted on @HumanHeadline: “Today was one of the most humbling days of my life. Walking around Parliament House lawns after the National Apology from Morrison and Shorten was amazing. The pain in grown-men’s eyes said it all.”
A LITTLE over 24 hours later the PM’s behind-the-scenes-crew went above and beyond to prepare a Mitchell small business for a visit. At 9.30pm Tuesday Pure Gelato owner Zoltan Tolgyesi agreed to host Morrison and a media pack of 30 early the following morning, but was concerned his shop wasn’t prime ministerial ready.
“No problem,” said the advance crew, “meet you there in 20 minutes”. Sleeves were rolled up, rubber gloves employed and by 11pm the showroom was ready for the PM’s “energy requirements” visit. Zoltan is still shaking his head at their professionalism. And ScoMo’s fave gelato? Boysenberry Cheesecake.
IN a week of apologies, another politician issued one of his own. Frustrated Liberal MLA Mark Partonposted a two-minute video aimed at “individuals languishing at the end of a long public housing waiting list, struggling to afford private rental.”
Parton claims his Land Tax Amendment Bill would have “eased the rental affordable crisis in the ACT” but without support from Labor and the Greens it failed. A defeated Parton offered the heartfelt mea culpa “I’m sorry, we tried”.
SEEMS like the cynics may have had a win on the Light Rail project.
Many scoffed at the “coming in 2018” slogan plastered on promotional material draped along the route. It has been confirmed the project is lagging several months behind schedule.
In July I reported that while the project may well be completed in December, first passengers would not be carried until the first quarter of 2019.
COULD the still-knotted, navy blue, handmade, silk, designer-label necktie I picked up from the gutter on Commonwealth Avenue be indicative of Canberrans adopting the national trend of a more casual dress code for the office? According to corporate fashion consultants “casual is in and stuffiness is out”. The trendsetters say men are “ditching ties and women are showing shoulders.”
THE penny has finally dropped at Canberra radio station Mix 106.3.After countless efforts to import talent to snag a greater slice of the local audience local lad Nigel Johnson is returning to breakfast radio. Installing one half of the hugely successful FM 104.7 duo of Scotty and Nige has always been a “no brainer’. A truism in radio is that localism wins. Blow-ins constantly mentioning “Tuggers” or “Charnie” or Mooseheads will fail dismally against the genuine local “cred” of Johnson and those of his radio ilk.
DESPITE a relatively unremarkable-to-date annual kangaroo cull, an animal rights activist is spooking Canberra motorists.
The protester sets up on Mugga Lane most afternoons between 3 and 6, complete with corflutes and a lifelike kangaroo mask, urging passersby to “stop the kangaroo massacre”, which is “cruel and catastrophic”.
Some motorists toot in approval, others give a lengthy blast to show displeasure and occasionally yell obscenities.
While our intrepid activist is cull-campaign toughened, one recent experience left the protester blindsided.
The driver of a large black, four-wheel drive pulled in after dark one night, then quickly left. The driver returned the following night armed with a portable light and a supply of batteries, “to make sure people see your sign”.
LRVs are coming and they are fast. Posters are popping up in shopping centres warning that LRVs (Light Rail Vehicles) are “approaching” and posing the question: “Are you Rail Ready?”
Canberra-metro.com.au has begun training commuters to “only cross at designated intersection crossings”, pointing out that LRVs move quickly and that “earphones and other distractions can put you at risk”.
Meantime cynics who scoffed at a 2018 Stage 1 deadline may have a glimmer of hope with the wriggle room that appears to have been applied to the latest update.
The word is that the project will be completed on schedule by the end of 2018 with the first passengers carried in the first quarter of 2019.
As for Stage 2 it appears to be way ahead of schedule, given there is no schedule. A large “light rail stops here” banner is plastered across the facade of the site of Geocon’s skyscraper, the Grand Central Towers at Woden.
IF there was a Walkley Award for weasel words Nationals’ leader Michael McCormack would already have his name engraved on one of the prized gongs.
Attempting to drown out predecessor Barnaby Joyce’s noise on decentralisation, the former journalist said: “Whilst there is always more work to do, any initiatives which enhance the government’s strategic policy focus on decentralisation – to not only grow regional communities but also decrease congestion in our cities and improve the quality of life and share economic opportunities more broadly – are always welcome.”
DESPITE the ongoing debacle surrounding Barnaby Joyce’s relocation of the APVMA to Armidale, the decentralisation sword of Damocles continues to hang over some Canberra public servants.
At a recent estimates hearing Nationals Senate leader Nigel Scullion admitted “seven agencies were being considered by cabinet for decentralisation away from Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne”.
The former Deputy PM continues to mock the concept after reports of staff being moved from Sydney to Parramatta suggesting: “You can’t decentralise to the centre. You have to decentralise from the centre”.
IN 2013 Belconnen was proud that a local pizza shop was consistently topping its franchise’s nationwide chain. Florey Domino’s dominated the chain’s 550 outlets nationwide winning its 13th straight annual sales award. At the time Domino’s Florey was knocking out a pie every two minutes. Now Domino’s languishes at the bottom of the just published Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre study.
STILL on nutrition and the University of Canberra is trumpeting the appointment of health and fitness guru Michelle Bridges’ dietitian Lisa Donaldson.
Diagnosed with coeliac disease and other intestinal issues more than a decade ago, Ms Donaldson, who holds a Bachelor of Education degree from UC, returned to the institution to undertake a Master of Nutrition and Dietetics graduating in 2011. Donaldson, who has also worked with Channel 9 nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan, returns as UC’s dietitian in residence.
FORMER Ainslie transgender footballer Hannah Mouncey apparently has made giant steps in handling her “potty mouth”. The athlete who came to prominence after being banned by the AFL from playing in the AFLW recently appeared on Fox Footy’s “Open Mike” with the doyen of Melbourne AFL scribes Mike Sheahan. Mouncey tweeted that she had “recorded Open Mike without swearing… seriously, it’s a big f&*%@$g achievement”.
The Dogs are barking …..Barnaby is about to be 'put down'.Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce's arch enemy Tony Windsor is the proverbial 'dog with two dicks' this week. The former member for New England tweeted @Barnaby_Joyce “Time to go , but before you do you might apologies to my wife and my now deceased mother for your disgraceful behaviour and to the many others on your trail of misinformation and deceit . You deserve no sympathy , the sympathy should go to those you have damaged” .
While good ole Barn's bush buddies gather today to decide what to do about the dirty dog,the canine theme was let off the leash at the weekend. The Tele's Miranda Devine's piece on the Barney business,revisited another famous political philander. Quoting Natalie Joyce on Barnaby's form .....Devine wrote Joyce “hasn’t been an easy dog to keep on the porch”, as Hillary Clinton once put it, but Natalie has persevered, understanding that highs and lows are part of his personality telling friends “he always comes back”. Is this a political comeback or is she referring to his form in 'leaving the porch'?