HOW SCOMO REALLY GOT THE GIG


Originally published in 2018

OPPOSITION LEADER BILL SHORTEN WILL NEVER BE PRIME MINISTER, IF A LITTLE KNOWN BUT FATAL POLITICAL CURSE STILL EXISTS.

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?

PRUE GOWARD’S GREAT PIECE ON ROS DILLON

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Poor, poor Ros Dillon. Her life has become a tragedy born of her father’s greatness. She is not alone. She is not the only damaged and lost child to have haunted the path of the very successful.

I was a young ABC journalist when I first encountered the Hawke family in Canberra. Bob Hawke, then prime minister, objected to my interviewing and undeniably ours was a combative relationship. The prime minister’s tears at his 1984 press conference, confessing to his daughter’s heroin addiction, I now appreciate were more real than we could ever have imagined.

Great people have great focus, usually on themselves, as they must to fulfil their destiny. The lives of those around them, including those of their children, may be expected to give way to the demands of this destiny. Promises to attend school celebrations or birthday parties are not kept; precious family moments are frequently derailed by the urgency of some professional crisis. The extraordinary dazzle of light emanating from the star parent may only seldom be bestowed upon the child, who instead watches from the shadows as the star shines its light on others instead.

Great people can have great appetites. Hawke’s infidelities were legendary, so many in fact I have met former lovers who discovered he had forgotten them entirely. While that was to change in his marriage to Blanche, in the Melbourne world his exploits with beer and blondes were well known and undoubtedly Hazel, his first wife and woman of great charm, suffered enormously.

Male and female ABC radio reporters in Hawke’s ACTU days submitted to interviewing him in his Boulevard Hotel room while he was naked (so I was warned when I worked for radio) yet his extraordinary charisma meant it was tolerated in a way it would not be in any other. His alcoholic all-night binges, Hazel’s compensatory heavy drinking and what must have been regular dramas and fights at home – that is when Bob was at home – would not have been without effect on any child.

Rosslyn Dillon’s life, by her own admission, is a poor and broken one. Now she has made allegations, in her challenge to her father’s will, that she was raped and sexually assaulted by Victorian Labor politician Bill Landeryou while she worked in his office in 1982 – but that Hawke told her not to report it to police because he was challenging for the federal Labor leadership.

It is disingenuous to dismiss her claims as outrageous because his other children have not made them. Vulnerabilities differ. Suffice it to say that whether Landeryou did know, in that instinctive way predators know, how vulnerable Rosslyn was, or whether he was confident her father’s ambition would protect him from accountability, Rosslyn believes she has never recovered from those events.

It is unfair to suggest this young woman need not have been raped three times and could instead have walked away at the first encounter. Or that she must have made it up, or consented at the time and regretted it later. How often have we railed against defence counsel in sexual assault cases for exactly those lines of argument?

Ros was already a broken girl and fear of being sacked by a Victorian government minister, of her father’s rejection or of damaging his great ascendancy would have been reasons enough for a loving daughter to tolerate three assaults before she escaped.

If Ros’ recollection is correct, her father favouring his ambitions over her protection would be despicable but, I counsel, not unheard of. By his daughter’s account, Hawke acknowledged her distress, believed her and told her directly why she was not to pursue it. Other men have been known to reject their daughters’ claims altogether and instead accuse them of immoral wickedness for making up lies about their mate.

Children live or die at the mercy of their parents; so Rosslyn Dillon has lived. We need to put her suffering above politics. Bob Hawke’s legacy to Australia is a great one, of which his family and party can be justly proud; there is no need to deny he was also far from perfect or that his family paid a price. No need to favour legacy over a truth only his daughter could know. This is real life; there can be both.

CANBERRA CITY NEWS MAY 16

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.

CITY NEWS SEVEN DAYS AUG 21

TWO towering political figures returned to the capital to celebrate the 90th birthday of Old Parliament House.

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Speaking at the National Press Club, former Lodge dwellers Bob Hawke and John Howard – who between them led the nation for almost 20 years – lamented the lack of life skills of those currently serving the nation. The former political foes shared consensus on the contemporary crop: “Career politicians without sufficient life experience are letting the public down”.

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IT follows then that political advisers may also lack the necessary experience to guide their charges. Pauline Hanson’s appalling burqa stunt is a case in point. An April, 2011, op-ed in “The Australian” on political stunts, by former Hanson mentor John Pasquarelli, highlights the ineptness of today’s political minders. Pasquarelli wrote: “The desire to make the evening news makes MPs do very silly things such as fruit picking, filling sandbags, dancing and wearing silly clothes. Our elected representatives make fools of themselves and their political message is diminished. Such corny things turn the ordinary Australian off”.

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STILL on stunts and there was a time if Craig Reucassel was spotted in Canberra, a message went out to pollies to make themselves scarce lest they be ambushed by a bunch of undergrad filmmakers. Craig and his “Chaser” mates forged lucrative careers through pranks that mostly saw pollies on the losing end of a stunt filmed for a television series. Reucassel, documenting the more serious topic of waste, hosting “War on Waste” for the ABC was in Canberra gathering footage for a follow up to the successful series.

THE tone of the SSM postal poll campaign may be already locked in with the gatecrashing of an anti-Safe School rally in Civic by members of the LGBTI community. Speakers, including NSW MP Fred Nile and ACL MD Lyle Sheltonwere shouted down by opponents waving rainbow flags and banners. Police report the event ended peacefully without arrests. However a spokesperson has warned of further trouble suggesting: “The LGBTI community had been passive for so long. Maybe that needs to stop because we are getting walked all over”.

MEANTIME, Shelton took to social media to express fears over what is in store for those who oppose same-sex legislation. Following an egging of the ACL’s Deakin offices Shelton tweeted: “Saturday, activists shouted down mums concerned about ‘Safe Schools’, yesterday they threatened to post ‘noxious’ substances, today this”. The lobbyist, who rarely backs down from an argument – or a media opportunity – says the ACL has been forced to employ private security and notify police weeks in advance of any rally.

AND clear positions have been taken by local media on the postal poll, at least in the case of Mix-FM’s breakfast newsreader, David Sharaz. The former SBS journalist used social media to back CM Andrew Barr, bizarrely tweeting: “Don’t worry Chief. Nobody looks back at the civil rights movement with regret. You’re on the right side of history”. And: “Rallying against marriage equality in the ACT is pointless. It’s like trying to promote smoking in a hospital”.

ASSEMBLY member for Ginninderra Tara Cheyne is finding it difficult to move forward. She continues to feature prominently on the Belconnen Community Centre website more than 18 months after leaving the organisation. Ms Cheyne resigned as chair of the BCC in December, 2015, after being pre-selected by Labor.

ACCURATE stats on people attempting suicide from the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge are scarce but such attempts, while not common, continue to occur. A Canberra man visiting the bridge several years ago, on the anniversary of his son’s suicide there, was shattered to witness police drag the body of another young man from the water. Last week one more young person jumped off the bridge during peak-hour traffic. While funding was found for a higher rail to protect cyclists from falling into traffic on the bridge, there appears no such priority to suicide proof the iconic structure.