I’ve interviewed many Prime Ministers over the past 30 years, but as “has beens” – Whitlam, Fraser and Keating, and as “wannabes”– Hawke, Howard and Rudd. Plus a bunch of “would-be-if-they-could-bes” in Peacock, Hewson, Beasley and Latham. But I’m still to break my duck interviewing someone who is actually in The Lodge.

It’s frightening just how quickly things now happen in the Canberra Bubble.

I wrote this piece in Feb 2014 confessing to my failure of interviewing a serving Prime Minister despite a more than three decades career in news and talk radio.

This sad article does end with a (sort of) prediction that Mr Harbour-side mansion would downsize to Adelaide Ave Canberra but highlights the fact that Mal came and went very quickly. Just how long before it’s Scott Morrison time to GO.

I HAVE a confession: I’ve never done it. Apparently, everyone around me has and continues to, but I just can’t seem to crack it.

I’m something of a virgin. Despite decades in the news business, I’m yet to pop my “interview a serving PM” cherry.

A short, sharp “g’day” from Julia Gillard recently when our walking paths crossed beside Lake Burley Griffin is as close as I’ve come, but not close enough.

I’ve interviewed many Prime Ministers over the past 30 years, but as “has beens” – Whitlam, Fraser and Keating, and as “wannabes”– Hawke, Howard and Rudd. Plus a bunch of “would-be-if-they-could-bes” in Peacock, Hewson, Beasley and Latham. But I’m still to break my duck interviewing someone who is actually in The Lodge.

At Melbourne’s Southern Cross Hotel, early evening, on that “one day in September”, 1977, after a long and emotional day at the MCG watching North Melbourne and Collingwood draw the VFL Grand Final, I loitered into a lift heading for an “enforced” early night.

The lift contained a tall and broad-shouldered man who, in my “emotional” state, looked vaguely familiar. I told him as much, too.

He held out a huge hand and, with a booming but cultured voice, subtly suggested I’d obviously “had a good day at the football, comrade”.

He alighted at the next floor, no doubt smirking at the drunken bogan who failed to fully recognise the great E.G. Whitlam.

A trench-coated, cigar-puffing, Silver Bodgie came on my show for a chat during the 1980s campaign in support of a local candidate. But R.J.Hawke had to wait a little longer for the keys to The Lodge. The encounter didn’t count.

During the campaign of ’84, I interviewed John Howard and Andrew Peacock.

On Melbourne Cup day 1984, an agitated Peacock came in for an on-air chat with a dozen or so members of the press gallery in tow. I asked callers to be brief with the questions as Peacock had to fly back to Melbourne to the Flemington racecourse. The media pack had fun with that the next day. A quote in “The Australian” said: “Mr Welsh didn’t need to issue the brevity warning to callers… there were none.”

Malcolm Fraser has also been on my program many times since leaving The Lodge.

Despite all this, I remain a “maiden performer” when it comes to interviewing “serving” PMs. With time running out for Gillard to “do the deed” for me, it looks as though I’ll have to settle for Tony Abbott – and just lie back and think of Malcolm Turnbull!


BY MIKE WELSH http://www.citynews.com.au

FOR the second time in less than a month the nation will hold its collective breath and focus on Canberra for the outcome of a controversial issue. ABS House in Belconnen has been confirmed as the venue for the announcement of the result of the SSM postal survey. The ABS press release says it “anticipates some media organisations will live broadcast the media conference”. The format of the November 15 revelation is not clear but clearly won’t resemble the traditional Tally Room setting with Kerry O’Brien heading a panel of experts skilfully unpacking voting trends.


TANYA Hennessy cried herself to sleep every night for her first three months in Canberra but leaves the capital a grateful performer after spending the past three months fielding a range of career options.

The Hit 104.7’s breakfast co-host said the wave of hate directed toward her after she and co-host Ryan Jon replaced breakfast stalwarts Scotty and Nige in 2016 was overwhelming, and “something I didn’t think I would be able to push through but 20 months on I not only did but I am about to take my brand to new levels”.

While Hennessy was unable to go into detail on her 2018 plans, Jon is joining a breakfast crew on Perth radio.


RETAILERS have reported a broadening of the demographic buying scary costumes for Halloween. Apparently adults are now almost as likely as children to don the scary wigs and face masks and celebrate the pagan festival, which was All Hallows’ Eve (October 31). In one Belconnen street alone several groups of 8-10 children and a smaller bunch of teenagers observed the trick-or-treating tradition revered by Americans. The Liversidge children from Higgins, Zac, Hazel and Jude, celebrated their third Halloween.


A STUNNING three-metre mural of the late John Hanna has added an extra dimension to an increasingly colourful Garema Place. Artist Christopher Toth’s “first in best dressed” painting on the wall of Bible House – commissioned by In the City – was unveiled recently. On hand for the official ceremony were Hanna’s wife Diana and daughter Melanie, both reportedly agreeing the menswear icon, who lost a battle with cancer in September, would be “chuffed” with the result.


ALSO in Garema Place, personal-injury-law-firm spruiker Mal Meninga was wearing his other hat to plug the Kangaroos v France game in the Rugby League World Cup at Bruce Stadium. The national league mentor appeared comfortable and relaxed despite questions from the assembled media pack on his coaching plans post World Cup.

THE Thunderbirds are gone but a convey of the classics they call the personal luxury car has left an impact on the capital. The recent Thunderbird Owners Club of Australia conducted its annual national meet with T-Birders from NSW, Victoria, SA and even Tasmania rolling through. T-Birds from the original 1955 model through to 2005 – some valued at $120,000 – were polished up and presented for the prestigious Car of the Show award.


STILL on high performance and classic cars. The Ferrari is long gone, replaced by a nice mid ’90s Mercedes, but former Liberal Party leader John Hewson is still in top gear. The 71-year-old who lost the “unlosable election” to Paul Keating in 1993, cut an impressive figure in Canberra recently leaping from his German classic in the carpark of Parliament House. Later the economist unloaded both barrels on the Turnbull government over its handling of the Manus Island standoff, taking direct aim at Immigration Minister Peter Dutton whom he described as “uncompassionate”.

AND possibly one of the reasons why Canberra was rated as “Lonely Planet’s” third-best city to visit in 2018 – the local dinner party gossip, rumour and innuendo. Broadcaster and Kevin Rudd bestie Phillip Adams tweeted after his “Late Night Live” radio program special on political sex scandals: “Just said I know of 6-7 Oz PMs with secret and potentially scandalous sex lives”.



“It was in Canberra wild rocker Jimmy Barnes met his wife, then 21-year-old uni student Jane Mahoney – a diplomat’s daughter – at an after-gig party,” writes Seven Days columnist MIKE WELSH

THE devotion of some rock fans is mighty impressive. Forty-something Cold Chisel devotee Madelin left her Cootamundra home before 6am and headed for Dymocks at Westfield Belconnen.


Arriving at 8.30am Madelin – who has been attending Chisel concerts since 1987 – landed the coveted top spot in the queue to meet her hero Jimmy Barneswho wasn’t scheduled to rock up until 12.30pm. But rock up Barnes did and cheerfully signed copies of his latest book “Working Class Man” and posed for pics for over two hours.

CANBERRA is a significant chapter in the extraordinary Barnes’ life story. It was here the wild rocker met his wife, then 21-year-old uni student Jane Mahoney – a diplomat’s daughter – at an after-gig party, a meeting the Cold Chisel frontman will never forget: “Sitting in the corner of the room, not saying a word, was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She looked like a princess, not someone you would see in a Motel 7 in the outer suburbs of Canberra”.

ANOTHER famous Australian with a strong Canberra connection also recently returned to his old stomping ground. Former PM Kevin Rudd was back at his alma mater, the ANU, to plug his latest book “Not for the Faint-hearted”.

Demonstrating the famous Rudd humility the former Lodge dweller charmed a near-capacity Llewellyn Hall audience including a 22-year-old woman wearing a “Kevin 07” T-shirt. During the “Conversation with Stan Grant” Rudd shared opinions of Tony Abbott: “the most destructive and negative politician we’ve produced”, Donald Trump: “a madman” and the Murdoch press as “a cancer on our democracy”.

CANBERRA bashers and cynics were quick to fire up on social media in the wake of “Lonely Planet” listing the capital as the world’s third best city to visit in 2018. Canberra curmudgeon Bernard Keane clearly disagrees, tweeting to the universe: “Memo to the rest of the world: @lonelyplanet is full of s*@t. Canberra is a great place to bring up kids, but ain’t no holiday destination.”

But “Lonely Planet’s” Chris Zeiher says: “The city has been hiding in plain sight. Rich with history, culture and entertainment, it offers something for every kind of traveller.”

CANBERRA lawyer Mark Blumer has broadened his legal horizons. The founder of personal-injury lawyers Blumers has financed a play being staged by the Tasmanian Theatre Company dealing with one of that state’s most controversial and divisive criminal cases. Blumer is executive producer of “An Inconvenient Woman”, which spotlights the judicial system surrounding the case of Susan Neill-Fraser, who is serving a long prison term for the murder of her de-facto Bob Chappell on Australian Day 2009.

THE mystery of a lush green tree sprouting from the top floor of the 20 storey Infinity Towers construction at Gungahlin has been explained. According to Wikipedia, the practice known as “topping out” goes back to ancient Scandinavia where a tree was placed at the top of a structure to appease the tree-dwelling spirits displaced during construction.

AN un-raced and un-named greyhound will soon be carrying the fortunes/future of local greyhound racing. Liberal spokesman for racing and gaming Mark Partonpromoted the syndication of the dog (20 members paying $300 each) designed to keep alive a campaign to prevent the Barr government from closing the industry. The Community Values syndicate – so called after Regulatory Services Minister Gordon Ramsay claimed the sport was “out of line with community values” – was reportedly oversubscribed within an hour of release.

AND talk about giving a dog a bad name; I was recently mistaken for a Liberal Party flunkey. Filming a lunchtime Unions ACT rally outside the Assembly – in the wake of Opposition Leader Alistair Coe’s inflammatory comments about unions – I was approached by a union official who demanded my credentials. When he became aware of the facts he backed off with: “That’s okay, then; I thought you were one of Coe’s team”.



Dear Kevin
Thank you for the recent application for the prime and much coveted position of Secretary General at the United Nations.
While we weren’t swamped with applications for this plumb role, (you , a butch chick from NZ and a couple of other randoms) , we still had to follow the mandatory and extensive process which thankfully , in your case, was a quick show of hands from the boys over beers and pizzas at a Kingston pub last Tuesday night. Topped up with the bi- partisan proxies of True Believers  venting long held grudges, it would appear you have completely missed the cut, dude.
While we appreciate the massive amount of arse licking, energy and preparation you applied to this project  (actually we didn’t even bother to open your email?), and without wishing to put too fine a point on it, my heartfelt and sincere hope is you will eventually come to fully appreciate the near impossible (piece of piss actually) task we were charged with.
In order to be seen to afford you the famous Aussie “fair suck of the sauce bottle” we reached out  to at least two of your selected referees. Remarkably both Ms Gillard and Mrs Keneally were  forthright, candid and pithy in their estimations of your appropriateness for this prestige position. You will be no doubt be heartened to know Ms Gillard is now nursing a broken ankle after falling from a marble table on which she’d been dancing since learning of your UN failure.  And you’d be impressed that Mrs Kenealy was prepared to go the… full nine yards, offering her beloved Labrador puppy in the event of you being unable to fulfil your taxing UN duties. A delicious moot point now, Kevvy but if I may be blunt, their relentless references to a “backstabbing pissant” and a “psychopathic narcissist” may have taken most of the gloss off your once glowing and stratospheric approval rating. History will now record the solid endorsements of the “blonde bombshell” and the “ginger dreamboat” failed miserably to raise your problematic credibility rating to the prescribed base level of the UN’s Selection Criteria. The marker, which some say is petty and small minded, is a relatively unknown and rarely used but convenient caveat inserted in the process to eliminate self-seeking, short tempered dictators from Queensland.
I will come clean Kevin, largely due to your penchant for leaking to Laurie Oakes, that yes I did indeed give you some reason for hope by hinting, several times, that you had my full support for your candidature.  But given my somewhat awkward lack of a silly old mandate, the hair-splitters in my party (a homophobic bunch of Catholic Boarding School Abbott acolyte rednecks) have deemed my giving you the nod completely and utterly out of the question. Broad church my fat arse.
It is my sincerest wish that you won’t remain crushed and numb for too long (no hurry) but that you keep your chins up, Digger, as there’s always another door about to slam in your phoney face.  Take heart my friend, as I’ve said many times since I excommunicated the monk “ there is no better time in our history to be a member of the knifed Australian PMs club and to be looking for a job”.
The reality is that the Australian people have spoken and they yelled loudly that it was …..“way past time the Milky Bar Kid was dragged down from his High Horse”.
I have asked Erica Betts,  our new HR chick, to keep your deets on file should a similar position become available, at which point we could drag your file and enjoy another round of the fab drinking game we call “not getting mad but getting even”.
To show there are no hard feelings, the next time you (deign) to visit Canberra, how about you and I and Albo swing by Dirty Davina’s Kiss My Whip pole dancing club in Braddon?.
In the end, as you are/were wont to say, “let me say this”….. we just simply couldn’t have an earwax munching, pigeon-toed, nerd haughtily strutting the world stage, again. And while you were not nominated for this once in a lifetime and career defining role I strongly encourage you to apply for other less important but more suitable opportunities we have available by visiting us at http://www.suckedinkev.com.au.
Malcolm Turnbull


 By Mike Welsh
I first encountered Francis Keany (he’s difficult to ignore) when he phoned my radio program after spotting “suspicious” activity at an embassy near his Canberra home. I can’t recall the precise details of the incident but I do remember predicting a bright future for the young man with loads of initiative and an eye for a story. Eventually Frank and I became colleagues.
frank reading
Even as a rookie radio journalist all those years ago it was obvious to anyone that Francis Keaney would become a successful journalist. There was little doubt about it. It was simply a case of when and where not if and how. Frank’s inquisitive and restless nature and relentless pursuit of a career in serious journalism beyond the woefully under resourced and rightfully disrespected Capital Radio newsroom was palpable. Indeed Frank’s career path was set in stone when as a kid he developed a habit of taking notes and writing stories. Unsurprisingly, among Frank’s basic details in a High School year book among Fave Foods and Bad Habits , JOURNALIST was the reply to “Most Likely to Be”.
Via 2GB, 2UE and the ABC, Frank, as most call him, is now not only a member of the prestigious Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery but a successful author. All by the ripe old age of 33.  In Follow The Leaders Frank provides an old style campaign diary of his experiences covering the 2013 Federal election campaign.


“Francis Keany’s book adds weight to political coverage and should be read by every news junkie , fan and critic of so called mainstream media” (James Massola)

james massola

Fairfax Chief Political correspondent James Massola officially launches “Follow The Leaders” (how to survive a modern-day election campaign).

Massola, who for the five weeks of the campaign also criss-crossed the country in the wake of the tightly choreographed campaigns of Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd, suggests Follow The Leaders is a rare book. One which “explodes the myth that reporting from the campaign trail is nothing more than a boozy magical mystery tour”.
Massola says Frank “writes with wit and with heart both of which are in short supply in Australian politics at times”.
The Manuka bookstore Paperchain which hosted the launch sold out of all copies of Frank’s debut work within hours, but stocks are being replenished.
Follow The Leaders may well provide some entertaining respite for weary Journos during the up coming marathon election campaign.
Follow The Leader
By Francis Keany



AN awkward silence exists in the wake of the Weekend Australian’s cover story ” A Family Affair”  A Family Affair which exposes the predatory sexual behaviour of several celebrity arts figures in the 1970s. Writer Rosemary Neill says reveals “Growing up in a licentious household in the care-free 1970s had a devastating consequences” for the children of celebrated  poet and playwright Dorothy Hewett.

 “Swaggering, starry identities — among them Brett Whiteley, Patrick White, Martin Sharp, Bob Ellis and British photographer David ­Hamilton — passed through the girls’ lives; many illustrious names from the theatre, film, literary and visual art worlds were frequent visit­ors to the family terrace in Woollahra in Sydney’s east.

How this explosive feature plays out- in particular for the legacy of filmmaker Ellis- will be interesting.


I wrote the following after Ellis’ death in  April 2016

By Mike Welsh

Bob Ellis who died at the weekend, has been variously described as “one of the finest scoundrels our nation has had the good fortune of sharing” (Rhys Muldoon); “the Truest of True Believers” (Kevin Rudd); and “he dispensed his views both barrels and full blast and to hell with the consequences” (Everald Compton).  It’s a fair start but fails dismally to describe the essence of the writer/playwright/filmmaker/wrecker of conservative political ambitions. Muldoon probably goes as close as anyone who tried to “nail” the real Bob Ellis.

 Last year I reread Goodbye Jerusalem , the 1997 book by Bob Ellis. In fact it was the second book of Bob’s I’d revisited.  I had also picked up for a second time the more contemporary and less controversial 2010 Ellis political tome Suddenly, Last Winter (An Election Diary)

My review copy of Goodbye Jerusalem is  special because it survived a pulping publisher Random House was forced to undertake after legal action from Liberal MPs Tony Abbott and Peter Costello and their  spouses.

Goodbye Jerusalem  was described at the time as a ‘wake’ of sorts. Ironically, Bob Ellis in public always looked as though he was in a slow motion hurry, possibly heading to or returning from the wake of yet another famous Australia actor/writer/ALP stalwart or sundry other notorious person whom he’d known for years…You wouldn’t know who Bob Ellis knew.

bob ellis books pic

I only knew Bob Ellis from the many phone interviews he generously participated in for my radio program. By far, for my money, Bob’s best caper was vowing to destroy (politically) Bronwyn Bishop by taking her on in a by-election for the Blue Ribbon (Sydney) Northern Beaches seat of McKellar.  

 I knew him by name only, as the author of the play The Legend of King O’Malley and was surprised when a friend assured me that he was regarded as a genius amongst Sydney’s political/intellectual push”. The friend also told McFadyen that “Women wanted to have Bob Ellis’ children.”

TV producer Ian McFadyen
bob ellis election poster.jpg

The essence of Ellis’s eccentricity and storytelling skill is in the Goodbye Jerusalem chapter, Six Degrees of Separation. Bob brilliantly demonstrates his almost unique grasp of Kevin Bacon’s game, in which a group of players attempt to connect a nominated actor to Bacon in as few steps as possible. Discussing the 1993 Fred Schepisi movie “Six Degrees of Separation”  and to ease the boredom on a long road trip with director Michael Jenkins (Blue Murder, Scales of Justice), Ellis takes up the challenge and prunes Bacon’s concept further….to three degrees of separation. And manages to create a uniquely Australian example in the process.

Bob wrote speeches for singer Kamal who corresponded regularly with Sir Donald Bradman. Ellis’s father lived next to the Darcy family in East Maitland and sparred with a young Les Darcy. And Bob worked with the man who made Phar Lap the movie. An impressive trifecta but as Bob was wont to say often…”and so on, and so it goes”.

In almost any chapter of Bob Ellis’s illustrious and colourful life he could easily nail an entertaining result within the allotted six steps of Bacon’s popular parlour game. One of his favourites involves the late Robert Hughes (art critic not sit-com actor). Bob Hughes’ brother is the Q.C. Tom Hughes, whose daughter Lucy is married to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose Auntie is the actress Angela Lansbury, whose father George Lansbury was the British Labour leader in Britain in the 1930s.

Another book I have read more than twice is Frank Hardy’s Four Legged Lottery.  Frank Hardy’s grand-daughter is the writer Marieke Hardy who has a female dog named Bob Ellis and a tattoo which reads “and so on, and so it goes”. Three degrees of separation!!!  








That Tony Abbott Song

By Mike Welsh

Given I’d knocked out scores of corny ditties for radio shows, including for Prime Ministers Howard (little Johnny H) and Gillard (Julia G the Ginger Dreamboat), and not to forget the Rudd Rapp, in the spirit of partisan political piss-taking I felt obligated to work on one for the (almost) latest Lodge occupant.

But thankfully (They Don’t Get) ‘Me’ has grown out of all proportion in comparison to my puny attempts to parody PMs. Instead of a couple of gratuitous spins on radio and a hundred hits on YouTube and Soundcloud, thanks to the talented Sydney Heavy/Pop trio Velveteen, the song has become a critically -acclaimed commentary and an exceedingly more polished musical project illustrated by TBS collaborators Friday Mash.

I’d always liked the manner in which Tony Abbott turned up and got on with the job. I don’t think it’s ever bothered him what people think of him. He was just happy to be able to kick the heads John Howard directed him to kick. He’s a roll- up-your-sleeves type of guy.

It’s “what you get is what you see” in its purest form. But even after years clothed in the disciplined hairshirt of Catholicism I suspect there’s a faint voice Modestly whispering, “after all I do, why don’t they get ?”

In a way (They Don’t Get) ‘Me’ is part praise of Tony Abbott. In the same manner I eulogised his mentor in “Little Johnny H”,

…He can’t walk on water, he can’t raise the dead. How can he be so damn good when he can’t lie straight in bed?

The Rudd Rap takes a bolder and more boastful narrative,

there’s a whole bunch of stuff a lot of folks don’t see…I’m back in the Lodge cos I kept a spare key I’m Kevin Bloody Rudd and it’s all about me

Tony Abbott deserves to have at least a corny ode written about him. I’m modestly satisfied I’ve been able to contribute to Velveteen’s masterpiece

For Whom the Exit Polls

By Mike Welsh

Politicians live and die by polls. Kevin Rudd’s pet pastime, apart from being a mealy-mouthed, phoney, backstabbing bastard, was polling and apparently it consistently confirmed his long-held belief in his own awesomeness and God-given right to rule.

With perpetual polls inevitably come bad polls, although these are quickly dismissed by using the galling refrain … “there’s only one poll that matters and that’s on election day.”

A new riddle has arisen in the wake of the UK election result.

Which poll is the one that “matters” now?

The one in which the voter has just participated, or the one in which a voter, who has already done their duty, is pestered to contribute to once they exit the polling booth.

The answer is both. Now if only the “expert” pollsters with their “state of the art” research tools and “exhaustive” tracking methods (HD widescreen dartboards) could produce a number somewhere in the neighbourhood of the real result.

The hung parliament prediction in the UK, even factoring in the pollsters’ “margin of error” cop out clause still represents one big fat-arsed elephant of a discrepancy in the tally room.

Pollies are spot-on about the “only poll which matters”. Both the real and exit polls are accurate for obvious reasons, but the latter proves that people aren’t prepared to reveal before they vote how they intend to vote. Yet political parties continue to live and die by polling using mostly taxpayers’ money.

The irony may be that political polls, apart from those taken on the way out of polling booths, are on the way out. Even exit polls are of little use other than to fast track results and give the Kerry O’Briens and Antony Greens something more substantial than TCTC (too close to call) to dribble about until the real result is known.

So  what of the future of political pollsters?

Has the UK result exposed them as tea leaf readers?

Without any “margin of error” the UK electorate shouted loud and clear. My vote is my business.

Politicians should get back to the electorate and “sniff” the mood for themselves. Get back into the factories and pubs and malls, minus the hard hats, fluoro pinnies and accompanying crew of media, and take a whiff of the real world.

According to a recent poll nine out of ten people participating in political polls reveal the polar opposite of how they intend to vote.

Though factor in a margin of error in on this just to be on the safe side.