CANBERRA CITY NEWS MAY 30

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.

CITY NEWS SEVEN DAYS NOV 30

By Mike Welsh

http://www.citynews.com.au

AS Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s annus horribilis nears an end, 2018 is already looking to be just as horrible.

Adelaide teenager Ned Richards, who walked from his hometown to Canberra in February challenging Turnbull over his poor treatment of refugees, plans to return. And this time 13-year-old Ned is bringing other youngsters and some grandmothers.

Ned’s father Adam, who joined his son for February’s 1200-kilometre “Refugee Regatta”, says the 2018 walk – in February/March – will begin from the steps of the Opera House in Sydney and finish at the Federal parliament.

canberra-walk-adam-and-ned-adelaide-ave-x-1
Ned (left) and his father Adam Richards walk past the Lodge in February

THE pushing back of the final parliamentary sitting of the year by the Coalition has thrown the plans of many visitors into disarray. In particular the hundreds of school children making their scheduled trip to the capital will leave mostly disappointed. As exciting as Questacon and the Australian War Memorial are, witnessing your country’s leaders behaving like school children is a rare and entertaining treat.

YOU don’t see many Akubras in the hipster hub of Braddon. Especially now that the area has taken on a rainbow hue. As a group of LGBTQI volunteers applied the final coats of paint and glitter to a rainbow roundabout, “benched” Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce was spotted lurking nearby. Joyce, who is opposed to same-sex marriage, obviously subscribes to the Young Farmers’ unofficial slogan: “You don’t have to be one to be one”.

IF ACT Labor Senator Katy Gallagher is superstitious she may be nervous about the “Q&A” curse. The senator – still under a dual-citizenship cloud – could join the list of 11 members who’ve already been forced to seek a High Court ruling on their eligibility to hold office. Nine of the list including Jacqui Lambie, Barnaby Joyce, Nick Xenophon, Malcolm Roberts, Fiona Nash and Scott Ludlam, all panellists on the ABC’s program have been punted. Katy was on “Q&A” in June, 2015.

katie JETS pic

CONFUSING messages and scary noises dominate the local real estate world. According to an ANU report the capital is over supplied with housing properties. And the CommSec’s “Home Size” trend report reveals that apartments in Canberra are the smallest (and getting smaller) in the nation.

Meanwhile the city’s largest apartment developer Geocon has been forced to bring in experts to explain noises in apartments at its Wayfarer site in Belconnen. Residents of the complex say the banging noises in the ceiling are loud enough to wake them at night. And on the “Canberra Notice Board” page on Facebook:  “WANTED… any upcoming homes in the Campbell area or inner-south up to $1500 per week for rent”.

CANBERRANS in their thousands were drawn into the hype surrounding the opening of Australia’s 26th H&M store. Thousands queued well before the Canberra Centre doors to the Swedish fashion retailer opened. Social media stepped up to the plate with Twitter swinging from the cynical “really excited about all the future landfill we can buy” to the blunt “An H & M just opened in Canberra and people are like vultures. I’ll come back when people have some self control”.

CANBERRANS are being asked to choose an official mammal mascot. Problem is the cutest are already taken. SA has the Southern Hairy Nosed Wombat, WA proudly displays the numbat and lucky old Queensland cuddles the koala. So it may just have to be the wide-mouthed territory tailgater (territorus tailgatus). A large, beige, impatient creature, the ‘gater is believed to have evolved in the Tuggeranong Valley after being displaced by construction of the Hyperdome. In recent years it has migrated north where it regularly terrorises motorists on the GDE!

Princess Katy, A Political Fairytale

By Mike Welsh

A recent article by Noel Towell in the Canberra Times on outgoing ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher described her as the “impossible Princess of ACT Politics”.

I’m guessing Noel was trying to be kind.

To be fair, Katy Gallagher is a smart and capable person. And politically astute. Sufficiently astute at least to play the Princess to her advantage. And she’s played it brilliantly. She can seamlessly segue from commanding captain of the hockey team on the field to head cheer leader urging on the football team from the sidelines.

After covering ACT politics for 11 of the past 12 years, my view of KG is that she is indeed a “princess”. The “precious poor little petal” type princess who when the heat is applied either whips out and waves the sexist card or drops her bottom lip and flutters her eyelashes with “I’m just a girl”.

Once, just prior to a pre-recorded interview with me for my radio program she coyly said…..”Be gentle with me Mike”

But after I became a little less gentle, on behalf of many victims of workplace bullying in the ACT Public Service, I was informed by a flunky that “Katy has banned you”.  The ban was lifted some time later but I was not notified.

Apart from some at the Canberra Times, Mike Jeffreys and me on 2CC the Canberra based media has given Princess Katy a right royal ride. Anointed by John Stanhope for the top job, and wholeheartedly endorsed by her mob for the squeaky clean image she projected to the electorate, she’s had a dream run through the past few years.

A dream run aided by a mostly soft, ineffective and self defeating opposition.

As a political leader Katy G is that rare and valued political bird. The unencumbered by baggage, cute little blonde cheerleader from cute little blonde cheerleader central. And the strategy has worked a treat for ACT Labour.

And that “rails run” through politics is about to continue. Bored with wading through the mundane day to day trash emptied out on the floor of the Municipal Council which is the ACT government, Katy Gallagher now swans off, without serious scrutiny, to the safety of the Senate leaving a trail of human misery which is the hundreds of psychologically damaged Canberrans bullied in the ACT Public Service. And the scores of whom were bullied again by the ACT Public service which “went after” them when they dared to speak out.

Out of sheer frustration at being unable to get past Katy’s gatekeeper Dr Peggy Brown, Director General ACT Health, on July 29 last year I tweeted @KatieGMLA after a letter I’d received from staffers  highlighting serious bullying at an ACT run department at which the letter said “there would be suicides”

To her credit Katie tweeted back “serious allegation deserves better that a tweet. Pl forward any info you have”

In reply I sought a guarantee there would be no further bullying as “this was almost always central to the issue”. I’m still awaiting a reply. Katie knows but can’t afford politically to know.

Among many bullying cases of which I was made aware, there was a woman from ACT Health who had been in contact with me over a period of time. She had written to Katy about the way she was “gone after” by her superiors after she “blew the whistle” on some inappropriate practices. I contacted her one Sunday afternoon to see how her case was going and was told “it’s too late, I’m on the roof”. She was indeed on the roof, of a very high building and was planning to jump, such was the pressure she was getting from the ACT Gov’s people for “blowing the whistle” on bullying.

The reality is either Katy Gallagher knows, chapter and verse, of the evil and destructive “culture” of bullying which exists in the ACT public Service or, somebody else read those reports from inquiries into bullying at Canberra Hospital which have never been published. This allows her to remain at arm’s length from the political stench attached to the issue and wash her hands as she walks away.

When the Whistle is blown on Bullying

I’VE been been bullied once, that I can recall. An overweight redhead, that perennial schoolyard victim, chose to pass some of the action down the line to a smaller kid… me.

I punched him in the face, got strapped and was never bullied again.

But you can’t punch the bully in the face anymore. So what to do?

The more I know of this destructive human trait, the less encouraged I am of a solution.

The Sydney “Telegraph” recently featured a 40-year-old man who’d been bullied at school. He gave horrendous examples of the abuse he copped in the yards of several schools he was forced to attend.

The ensuing years proved to be problematic, with relationship breakdowns and an inability to hold down regular employment.

There was a positive outcome though, several of his peers, including his own brother, read the article and were shocked to learn of his suffering. Furthermore, several of them got in contact to apologise. They were unaware of the suffering they’d inflicted.

Over my 11 years on the 2CC Drive Show, I have become educated on the long-term and permanent damage done by bullying, including workplace bullying and it seems to me that we don’t mature much once we’re out of the schoolyard.

I assured scores of victims of workplace bullying (largely within the ACT Public Service) that I could protect them should they choose to go to air. But it turns out, I couldn’t in many cases. Whistleblowers are often bullied again.

The standard management approach of “is that really bullying?” or” is he/she just too sensitive?” is wearing thin. Or the old fallback: “Better watch your step, lest you wreck your career”.

If you’re in the foetal position at 3am terrified at the prospect of going back into the battle zone… more than likely, it’s bullying.

If your day brightens up 100 per cent the moment you arrive and discover Bully is off for the day…. more than likely, there’s a bullying problem.

I also urged those who contacted me to get together in numbers But  safety and power in numbers is not always a guarantee. The strategy is to worm out the ring leaders of the “revolt” and put pressure on them. A group of six becomes two, split the two and you may just have “made this thing go away”.

One worker, a big, strong man standing 6’3” told me he was fearful of returning to work in the yard where he’d been bullied.

A woman told me that while she won her case, she would not recommend going down that road, it’s far too painful.

Another woman, who had the guts to make a written complaint, told me that by coffee time, the entire office – including the bully knew. The bullying then intensified.

The ACT Government was lauded on the introduction of a whistleblowing policy which loosely allowed a public servant to go outside (to media) with their bullying and allied issues, if they were dissatisfied with the “usual procedure”. The problem is “usual procedure” usually means their card is marked.

This “innovative” whistleblower policy failed a public servant with whom I’d been speaking earlier this year. After returning from six weeks off air,  I texted her to reconnect. She told me it was “too late”, she was “on the roof”, which I took for a euphemism for getting to the end of her rope.

But she was, in fact, on the roof and ready to jump.

She came down and was admitted to psychiatric ward. Three days later, she took a call from her superior wanting to know why she’d missed work!

Another time, I received a letter from five staff of an ACT Department confirming that what I was saying was one hundred per cent correct. One quote – “So much suffering. So much stress. We wait for suicides, because that is what will happen” – was frightening.

I once tweeted the word “suicide” to shame the Government on bullying. Chief Minister Katy Gallagher tweeted it wasn’t the forum for such a serious issue. What then my Chief Minister is the forum? Or do we wait until after the suicides to formulate another policy?