Originally published in 2018


For two weeks in April 2006 the then trade unionist embedded himself in the nation’s psyche from the top of a gold mine in Beaconsfield Tasmania as international media broadcast the gripping story of two miners trapped below. 

Returning to the Apple Isle to campaign for the July 28 by-election in the seat of Braddon Shorten was seriously rebuffed after only 30 locals attended a Devonport chamber of commerce sponsored “working lunch” on July 4. What Bill, or his advisers ignored was the “Devonport curse”. If Devonport rejects you, you are toast.

 It was in the coastal port hub on Melbourne Cup day 1984 that the curse first materialised. Then federal opposition leader and conservative pin-up boy Andrew Peacock, dropped in to campaign for the Dec 1 federal poll before flying back to Melbourne to watch the big two miler at Flemington.

I was the mid-morning announcer on radio 7AD and the “Kooyong Colt” was scheduled for a 10 am in-studio chat.

By the time Peacock entered the studio he was 25 mins late and livid. In a huddle with advisers a frustrated Peacock muttered the F word several times- thankfully not on air-but not detected by the  30 strong media pack which had crammed into the antiquated 7AD studios. The source of Peacock’s fit of pique was also the reason for his tardiness. In the Rooke St Mall below, party flunkies had frantically but unsuccessfully searched for a local who either recognised the man who was heading for the Lodge or was prepared to participate in a photo opportunity.

On air I urged callers to “keep their questions short” as our guest had “a horse race to get to”.  A member of the traveling media pack joked in the Australian the following day that “Announcer Mike Welsh needed not to have bothered with a brevity plea to open line callers as there were none”.

Whether that part of the nation which is stopped by a race had already downed tools, or the people of Devonport had decided Peacock’s birthright to rule was dead in the water, is unclear but Black Knight won the cup and in less than a month Bob Hawke was re-elected Prime Minister. Opposition leaders curse or coincidence?


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.


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”.

Should Sloppy Joe Sew His Lips Together?

By Mike Welsh


If I live to be 150 I will never begin to understand why seemingly shrewd politicians sometimes say stupid things.

It’s pointless having expensive media advisors if you are going to ignore their counsel and boldly stand before a rack of microphones, open your fat gob and spit out stupid things.  Stupid things which stick to you for several days like dog shit on your shoes. Forcing the above mentioned and highly remunerated media advisors to scrape off your smelly foot-in-mouth comments. And to add spice to your dog shit have your political opponent “take the mick”.

Yes I’m referring to Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey

This week our tubby Treasurer followed up his 2014 “poor people don’t drive” clanger with the inspiring revelation that “somewhere today there is a child born who could live to 150”.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, not known for sharp and penetrating heckling, audaciously invoked the name of the Patron Saint of Saying stupid things, Sarah Palin, after Joe’s Sesquicentenarian scenario.

And what does the lady herself think of the Hockey gaff?

Listen to a call I made to a Sarah (queen of hockey jokes) Palin I Know.


Why “Chilled” Bill is Still Tony’s Bunnie

By Mike Welsh


Back in the day when a racing greyhound lost its passion for chasing the mechanical bunny or lure there were a few options.  If the first failed to achieve the desired result there was only one “practical” option left.  Both were extremely cruel and illegal but deemed necessary for success.  A bit like politics.

I’ll spare you the brutal details of options A and B but let’s just say  there aren’t  too many “retired” greyhounds happy gambolling with humans across the local doggie park.

Despite what the polls say…Opposition leader Bill Shorten desperately needs a something akin to the heartless and inhumane method once used to reinvigorate a greyhound’s desire to focus on the prize.

With the conservative media falling over itself to deliver a benevolent  slap to the back of the head or a nurturing knee to the groin of a cowering Prime Minster, “Chilled” Bill simply either agrees with Tony Abbott or attempts some intellectual/smart-arse comment which evaporates within seconds .

Batches of promises  broken, barnacles the size of Bertha’s butt on it’s butt, bungling ministers abounding and poll numbers further around the S bend than the “unflushable turd” John Howard’s year one result, yet Bill Shorten has not laid a glove on Tony Abbott.

When, if not now, would be the right time to have a lash, Bill?

Such is the electorate’s aversion for Tony Abbott; it hasn’t yet noticed Bill Shorten is not even in the race let alone bereft of the necessary mongrel to chase the lure/prize.

Is it possible Bill has sussed the lure is not a real bunny but simply a mechanical device with a rabbit skin covering it?

Or it’s possible he accepts the Labour party “certainty” of being “scratched” mid race and sees little point of chasing the prize when he’ll never get the chance to savour it?

For a while I was prepared to accept the “Chilled”  Bill line of attack was a clever strategy. A ploy to lull Tony Abbott into a false sense of having already “done in” another Labour leader.

Convince Tony he already he had his “bunnie” in Bill and all he needed to do is polish his bootlicking techniques to sooth the conservative media pack and he’ll be ok..until Bill is replaced.

Apparently politics is all about perception and the perception is Bill stands for nothing. He started with nothing, has done nothing in 14 months in the job and continues to stand for nothing.

Paradoxically at the beginning of his Labour leadership, Bill bravely spat that he would never be as “relentlessly negative” as Tony Abbott.

The past 12 months may have been “ragged” for Tony Abbott but at least he already has his Bunny,Bill Shorten..

Convert Shorten Preaches to the Converted.

By Mike Welsh

Australian Opposition leader Bill Shorten is extremely optimistic if nothing else. 

As guest speaker at the Australian Christian Lobby’s annual conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Canberra this weekend, the “parachuted” hero of the Beaconsfield Gold mine rescue blatantly mined another rich vein of gold, the precious political type which flows from the conservative Christian vote. And he may just have scored the gold medal for sheer unadulterated political gall along the way.


“Shorten clearly expects to be able to have his “Kate and Edith too” on the same sex issue”

To give Bill credit he didn’t adopt the usual weasel words pollies use around contentious issues, speaking boldly about his firm support of Same Sex marriage to the most rusted on anti-gay group in society.

On the politically fraught issue of  Marriage Equality, Bill brazenly marched onward, to the beat of a completely different drum from the conservative Christian soldiers before him in the Hyatt room.

The ACL with its Tea Party tendencies and matching unfashionable baggage on gay issues was expected to swallow Bill ‘s pious pitch..good Book, party  Line and hymn Singer.

While not going into too much detail, “Brash” Bill’s clear invitation to the ACL , to quote the crude LBJ solution to the J. Edgar Hoover problem, was for it to come into the True Believer’s tent and “piss out” rather than be on the outside “pissing in”. The audacity of the man.

As Bill attempted to convince the assembled believers that he too was a “believer” rather than just another “Catholic” by chance of a school chosen for him by his folks, a measure of cynicism certainly would have invaded the hall.  However the ACL, itself no slouch in manipulating the media, did after all invite Bill to be Keynote speaker.

In late 2012 former ACL head Jim Wallace was forced to deny making a link between homosexuality and tobacco in a debate over Same-Sex marriage.   

Wallace told an audience at University of Tasmania that homosexuality reduced life expectancy far greater than smoking tobacco.  And he struggled to dig his way out with…. “What I was saying is that on one hand we are vocal on our discouragement of people to smoke and on the other we are suppressing public dialogue about the health risks associated with homosexuality.”     (Jim Wallace)

In a week which saw the faithful blindly beatify the greatest of the great True Believers, E.G. Whitlam, TB Bill even quoted parts of the Sermon on the Mount.  While he didn’t dwell on that girlie bit about the “meek”,  Bill’s sermon was big on The Bold Shall Inherit the Mandate.

The tweet about “Catholic” Bill  becoming a “proper” Christian with #fuck (Former Ubiquitous Catholic Kid) obviously failed to “trend”.

But Bill’s testimony of his “blended” brand of Christianity at the ACL’s gathering at the Hyatt in Canberra at the weekend would have had as much impact as a Convert Preaching to the Converted. None.