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.

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By Mike Welsh

IF the city of mostly true believers is still disappointed by the election result it could always build a bridge and get over it. Speculation of a brand, spanking new structure spanning Lake Burley Griffin might just be the tonic. 

The National Capital Authority has confirmed a study of completely replacing Commonwealth Avenue Bridge will begin, rather than building a separate structure to accommodate light rail to Woden.

AND if a new bridge doesn’t do it, a naked man walking across the existing one with a pumpkin on his head surely would. Thankfully we won’t be exposed to such a spectacle after Sydney journalist Eddy Jokovich reneged on his pledge to “walk nude from Sydney to Canberra balancing a pumpkin on my head” if the coalition won the Federal election.

Pumpkinhead Eddy’s copped a shellacking on social media in the days since, pathetically responding on Twitter: “To all those perverts with their binoculars out there expecting this to happen, if the Liberals can lie and break their promises, so can I. None of the polls predicted Morrison’s re-election, few expected it. People make mistakes. Go and have a cold shower, all of you”. 

Given shrinkage and Canberra’s climate, a nothing-to-see-here-folks headline has gone begging.

SCOTT Morrison’s miraculous victory has brought the “fast tracking” of Canberra’s light rail to Woden to a shuddering halt. ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr must now explore other avenues of funding. Stage 2 was more likely under a Shorten government with its pledge of $200 million. A shellshocked Barr suggested the re-election of the coalition was “going to set back the time frame, there’s no doubting that,” with 2025 “a more realistic time frame”.

IF the next ACT election takes on a Trump/ScoMo presidential tone the Canberra Liberals will need Mark Parton as its leader. Armed with little, the local Libs won’t be able to resist a “Barr will tax you to death” version of the “Crooked Hillary” and “Shifty Bill” template which worked a treat for Donald Trump and Scott Morrison.

Morrison is the consummate salesman. Parton is a very good salesman. Both have extensive experience in media roles before entering politics and the skills to “buy and sell” career political types such as Bill Shorten and, locally, Alistair Coe. Political campaigns are now 100 per cent sizzle with no room for sausage.

WITHIN 48 hours of the first quiet murmurs of a Labor defeat turning into a loud roar, reinstated ACT Labor senator Katy Gallagher had put the bite on me. Late on Monday I received a “Don’t mourn, join” email from the former ACT chief minister. “Mike, Saturday night’s election was disappointing for Labor supporters and voters across Australia. But now it’s time to rally together and look to the fight ahead”. Before the signwriters had even reattached the shingle to her new/old office, Katy was asking me “to join our progressive movement and become a member of the ALP”.

THE once fierce resistance to Canberra’s annual kangaroo cull has dimmed over recent times, but the 2019 program targeting a record number of roos has reawakened protesters’ rage. Twenty four organisations, including filmmaker Creative Cowboy and British-based vegan charity Viva, have issued a statement condemning the killing of 4076 kangaroos and unknown numbers of joeys. The group claims: “When global scientists have issued the strongest call yet to reverse ‘nature’s dangerous decline’, the ACT government is overseeing the cruel mass slaughter of over 4000 kangaroos.”

STILL on activism; Manuka’s fashionable district is not known for its tree huggers nor is it traditionally a haven for those with a penchant for civil disobedience, which is a relief because such action is no longer necessary to save a mature London Plane tree in Franklin Street. A ruling by the Conservator for Flora and Fauna Ian Walker, has blocked the destruction of the tree standing in the way of a proposed European-style, neoclassical, seven-storey hotel near the Capitol Cinema.

THE good folk of Curtin have been very generous with donations to the recent Anglicare Pantry appeal. Volunteers spent the weekend outside the local Coles store and gathered around 5000 items. The supermarket manager says that takings were up $30,000 for the week and the food items donated during the weekend filled more than 40 trolleys.


CANBERRA was Bob Hawke territory. The Labor legend spent more time here than most of his fellow Lodge dwellers and, unlike most who spent time in that high office, sport was Hawke’s major leisure pastime. Among the Canberra-themed Hawke stories being shared, many involve the Raiders. 

Hawke’s premiership coincided with the Green Machine’s purple patch and underpinning Hawke’s “People’s PM” mantle are the many classic photos of a grey-suited Hawke enthusiastically sharing a beer with sweaty and often topless footballers after another Raiders win.

THE Hawke reputation was formed decades before he strode the national political stage. While many tales of the Rhodes Scholar’s boozing can’t be told, there is one from his time as a student at the ANU. Often dismissed as myth but confirmed by author Dr Jill Waterhouse in “University House, As They Experience It: A History 1954-2004”, a naked Hawke in 1957 “was one of five students who, in very high spirits, swam about in the ornamental goldfish pond at University House.”

FROM all the words written about him since his passing it’s impossible for anyone to claim to have nailed the impact the flawed but brilliant Hawke had on Australians. But Canberra social commentator Melinda Tankard Reist, for my money, came very close with: “I had never seen a male adult in my family cry when I saw Bob Hawke shed tears on TV. It was almost shocking and in retrospect, a gift to Australian men.”

RECENTLY I made a mental note to purchase some Bob Hawke beer after spotting the craft brew from Hawke’s Brewing Co on special at a suburban grocer. I popped back in around 4.30 on Thursday afternoon to buy a six pack, only to be told it had just sold out. Spooky?

NOT everyone is impressed with our light rail. A Sydney visitor very keen to experience the new transport mode hectored their host for a ride. Eventually relenting, the host organised a round trip from the city to Gungahlin. At journey’s end the visitor’s only comment was “don’t like the scenery”. Apparently it was “too concrete” resembling the “major thoroughfare of an eastern-bloc city”. May have been a cloudy day. Can’t please everyone.

The 1959 handmade suit in the window of Sam Catanzariti Menswear. Photo: Mike Welsh

STILL in the city and with a mini-Manhattan skyline rising above it, it’s nice to know there is still some old-fashioned craft appreciated. On display in Sam Catanzariti Menswear’s window in Allara Street is a mid-grey, double-breasted suit. The suit was handmade by Sam himself in 1959 for a local man who wore it until his death in 2009. Before donating the garment (made from pure wool baratier fabric) to present owner Jovan Nikolevski, the man’s widow sent it to the dry cleaners who found two ticket stubs to the Dress Circle of the Royal Theatre in Sydney dated October 27, 1962.

AS the keeper of chooks I am beginning to feel nervous about proposed new laws for the ACT which recognise animals as sentient beings (able to perceive or feel things). If enacted, the legislation will dictate that animals have “intrinsic value and deserve to be treated with compassion”. Therefore we humans have “a duty to care for the physical and mental welfare” of our animals. I confess I may at times have spoken brusquely to my chooks when the production of eggs slowed and possibly subtly suggested an “axe” was hanging over them when laying stopped completely.

Who is the fairest of them all… Richard Luton or Madonna?

THE end of an extremely dull Federal election campaign was brightened by Canberra real estate agent Richard Luton, who posted on Instagram a picture of himself (at the 2018 Luton Charity Ball) and a picture of Madonna (at the Billboard Women in Music Awards) both wearing similar flamboyant suits. Luton asks: “Who wore it better?… This is more important than general election”. Observing AEC regulations Luton urged followers: “Need your vote by 6pm, Saturday”. The result? Too close to call.


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…