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…


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Bundajalung elder and Wahria-Bal custodian Lewis Walker

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

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