CANBERRA CITY NEWS APRIL 25

by Mike Welsh

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.

‘GREASE’ IS THE WORD WHEN IT COMES TO CAUSES

SINGING superstar Olivia Newton-John and more than a 100 Falun Gong practitioners separately visited Canberra.

Newton-John was in town to lobby the Turnbull government for more funding for cancer research while the yellow-jacketed adherents to Falun Dafa wanted to highlight the widespread practice of human organ harvesting in China.

The “Grease” star was warmly welcomed into the Turnbull inner sanctum and felt the love of starstruck Senators Hinch and Hanson. But after two days of getting physical on the lawns of Parliament House, the Falun Gong had to settle for a quick word from a little-known Greens senator. I guess it’s a case of horses for causes.

STILL on Senator Hanson and it’s safe to speculate that her Senate-stopping burqa stunt may have forced an upgrade of her personal security back to that of 1997.

In her 2007 autobiography “Untamed and Unashamed” the One Nation leader recalls “the intrusion” of being shadowed by two or three AFP officers from the moment she stepped from a flight at Canberra airport. Senator Hanson wrote: “I was told by the AFP that the threat against me was higher than against any other politician, including the then PM John Howard”.

WHETHER ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seseljavolunteered or drew the short straw to appear on “Q&A” is unknown. The Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs would have known he was the Christian being fed to the lions on the Monday night panel show. The conservative senator was strategically positioned between philosopher AC Grayling and Israeli politician Merav Michaeli – both of whom believe traditional marriage is sexist and should not exist in its current form. The father of five acquitted himself well despite being booed by audience members for his intention to vote no in the SSM postal survey.

MEANTIME, some same-sex couples in Canberra claim to be just plain weary from the debate. One woman who has been in a same-sex relationship for 30 years says she is simply “exhausted” and “exasperated”. Worn down by the relentless pressure of being the focus of attention, she says: “The issue is sucking the oxygen out of the room as it’s the only thing people are talking about”. And she is exasperated by the negative comments of the National Party leadership and the non-binding element of the survey outcome.

CANBERRA’S Crows’ supporters are in a state of excitement. A healthy and well established Adelaide Crows AFL supporters group – consisting of between 50 and 70 mostly ex-pats – has been gathering at each other’s homes to watch the Crows’ games. The group even has its own Facebook page, CrowACTive. The pride of SA in Friday’s preliminary final and warm favourites to win their first flag since 1999 – the year the Canberra support group formed.

ICONIC Civic cafe Gus’ has sprung back into life and, if the long queues on opening day were any indication, Canberrans certainly missed the Bunda Street establishment. Famous for being at the vanguard of al fresco dining in the 1960s, the revamped Gus’s Place has given Garema Place the nostalgic touch it is sadly losing.

WHILE the coffee house’s refurbishment was popular, construction at another iconic Canberra location has been broadly criticised. Within hours of the first metal panel of a new security fence on the lawns of Parliament House being set in concrete, criticism began to flow on social media with veteran press gallery writer Michelle Grattan tweeting “it’s appalling”. The 2.6-metre grilled fence is the centrepiece of an estimated $126 million security upgrade for Parliament House.

TWO large, handwritten banners on a house on Belconnen Way at Page are confusing some passersby. Seemingly set for demolition or a major renovation, the property bears two signs which boldly claim: “NOT A FLUFFY”. Is the owner/builder making a political statement on the controversial ’80s insulation or simply maintaining the real estate value of the surrounding area already dotted with Fluffy houses?

FENCES AND HEDGES AROUND THIS HOUSE IS JUST NOT CRICKET

By Mike Welsh

So have the terrorists finally won??? Or will/should there be tens of thousands of Australians rolling, strolling or gamboling across the lush lawns of democracy this summer?

 

Climbing to the top of our Federal Parliament across these spectacular sloping and carefully manicured green lawns is about to be banned. Thanks to security threats intercepted via “internet chatter” two years ago , the people’s parliament” could  become a relative bunker.

Mark Kenny in Fairfax today has reported..” A number of changes have reportedly received support from the major parties in the lower house and will be put to senators this week, with a view to beginning the works over summer”

The report says..”.Security both inside and outside the 250,000 square metre premises has been stepped up significantly since 2014, when intelligence services intercepted “chatter” in terror networks about an attack on the building”.

Social media is beginning to burr up on the issue…..

Cherie Lee ‏@leecd60 1h1 hour ago It’s the right of every child in Australia to roll down Parliament House lawn. @BreakfastNews Lock up & more we fear

Stephanie AndersonVerified account ‏@stephanieando 4h4 hours ago…..Want to roll down the Parliament House lawn? Best do it soon via @markgkenny

 Alex BeechVerified account ‏@AlexHBeech 3m3 minutes ago

“It’d be like putting a barbed wire fence over the Opera House” -@HumanHeadline on proposal to fence off Parliament House roof lawns #auspol

So have the terrorists finally won??? Or will/should there be tens of thousands of Australians rolling, strolling or gamboling across the lush lawns of democracy this summer?

“I think children rolling down the hill is a fantastic thing and I’m sure that children rolling down the hill is not a security risk to the parliament”….  Cabinet Minister Mathias Cormann

Ran into old mate out for his morning jog today. When he spotted the camera he became very agitated. My sweaty new friend soberly advised me to “take plenty of pictures now while you can because there’ll be a ^&%$*@# concrete wall there soon”. His puffing punchline…..”It’s a &^$#%*! disgrace”.

The Broad Church wasn’t ready for this broad

 By Mike Welsh
Nikki Savva’s explosive book on the downfall of Tony Abbott may have just given birth to a new political idiom. It’s corny and it’s crude but it goes some of the way in summarising the sad and sorry saga.
LIVE BY THE BROAD  – DIE BY THE BROAD.
tone and peta cred.jpg
“The Road To Ruin” promises an insight into how a dysfunctional government came tumbling down.
It appears from Savva’s book that the fault sits squarely at the feet of Peta Credlin, Abbott’s Chief of Staff, whom he allowed to stomp on way too many Conservative toes. And now it’s payback time.
Insiders have been reportedy lining up to take a swing at Credlin and to a lesser degree Abbott.
Savva’s book also provides details of other shenanaghans including “choppergate” and the culprit who broke a marble coffee table during a late night party in the freshly dislodged PM’s office. But it’s Credlin’s imposing footprint which looms large throughout the book and over its fallout.
Taking centre stage is the “perception” Credlin and Abbott were having an affair. Savva says several senior coalition colleagues raised the delicate topic with both parties. Brave move if we are to believe the extent of Credlin’s influence over Abbott and therefore the career prospects of those in and around the Abbott Government.
“Credlin not only possesses a large set of  testicles, she had almost sole custody and an “iron grip” on the now slightly less impressive and smaller set once attached to Tony Abbott”
 Once the sizzle of the alleged “hiding of the sausage” fades will there be a usable insight into the workings of the mind of the shirtfronting Rhodes scholar Abbott?. Here is the man who can rightly claim some authorship of the “A Headkickers Guide to Modern Politics” but apparently chose to ignore the red flags which were flapping in his face. What makes Abbott really tick doesn’t appear to be revealed to any extent on reading “The Road To Ruin”. That’s another book, or three, and surely worth much than $29.95
This is not the first book which attempts to explain what went wrong last October (at last count it’s number 3) but it is the most expansive critique to date of a Government which quickly squandered a healthy mandate and began to wobble out of control. It has all the right people saying the right things and of course more than a whiff of a sex scandal. A book promoter’s dream.
To date Abbott  is loathe to “rake over the coals” of the sordid tale but there were plenty who went on the record  to clearly point out Abbott would walk across the same coals to defend Credlin from criticism.
Credlin has described the book as “scurrilous gossip”.
Laurie Oakes gets close to nailing the essence of the story with his clever cover comment…”An Instant Classic”…. the weirder than weird story of a duo who couldn’t govern to save themselves”
nikki savvaSavva ‘s book brutally paints Credlin as  a disrespectful, bad tempered and bullying banshee. Apart from some interesting tidbits about the highly damaging “choppergate” scandal and Abbott’s rugby mate Joe Hockey’s table top tap dancing, the take home message is clear  …..Credlin not only owns a large set of testicles, she also had almost sole custody and an “iron grip” on the now slightly less impressive and smaller set once attached to Tony Abbott.