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.

WAKE ME UP BEFORE YOU GO SCOMO

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!

Another Year for LAWSIE

FROM http://www.thebigsmoke.com.au

By Mike Welsh

The great man sounded grumpy when we spoke just after midday. Understandably so, as Richard John Sinclair Laws CBE OBE had just finished another demanding three-hour on-air talkback radio shift.

The phone call was to discuss his new book LAWSIE: Well…you wanted to know (New Holland) one which, astonishingly, Laws claims to have not yet read. The book chronicles a series of in-depth interviews with the publisher and the man himself, over a twelve month period.

Fans of Laws will quickly spot the lack of anything bowel-shatteringly new in the book, as it’s nigh on impossible for there to be anything novel about the ‘King Of Radio’. Everything about both this shy man’s very public and private existences has been minutely examined, forensically probed and widely published. His unique style has been aped by scores of wannabes over the past six decades, and yet, approaching his 82nd birthday, he still broadcasts on a daily basis. Quite an achievement, I suggest. Laws disagrees: “ I don’t think it’s an achievement, it was nothing I’d planned, it just happened. It’s simply a matter of survival.”

If it comes to it, who would play John Laws in the movie?

“I don’t think I could play a good Clint Eastwood, but I think Clint Eastwood might be able to play a good John Laws”.

 

 

The man whom former Prime Minister Paul Keating once described as the “World’s Greatest Broadcaster” applies an odd caveat to his role in the publication, stating that “This is not a book that I actually wrote, but it is my words. Somebody asked me a bunch of questions, and I answered a bunch of questions”. Laws is pleased with the overall presentation of the book, but dislikes the 60s era black and white photo on the back cover “I don’t ever remember looking like that.”

A testament to Laws’ unique relationship with (and vast influence over) mainstream Australia, is the consistent and long procession of grovelling politicians seeking direct access to the broad audience that only he can deliver. Laws describes Paul Keating as “a really good bloke with a terrific sense of humour and although I’ve not seen him for a while, I still regard him as a friend”. As for the current Lodge dweller, Laws points out that the Malcolm Turnbull we are seeing at the moment “Is the Malcolm Turnbull who wants to stay in power, but I believe he will change as he grows into the role of Prime Minister. He’s a very bright man.”

 

 

So, has John Laws mellowed down the years? “No, some people say I have but I’m just as angry as I ever was. I don’t have any trouble being angry. I’m not angry all the time, I have soft moments.”

Laws steps away from that when I broach the topic of one of his favourite radio stations, 2UE. Is the current lowly status of 2UE symptomatic of talkback radio now, I wondered? Laws booms in response: “2UE is a tragedy…used to be a great broadcasting station. It’s been allowed to unwind. I think it’s a disgrace what’s happened to 2UE, somebody should stop and have a close look at it”. In the book, Laws is more succinct in his assessment of the radio station that was at or near the top for decades: “2UE is fucked.”

Laws surprisingly speaks fondly of his former 2UE colleague (and sometimes adversary) Alan Jones, describing him as a competent broadcaster, and sympathises with his current poor state of health.

 

The Malcolm Turnbull we are seeing at the moment “Is the Malcolm Turnbull who wants to stay in power, but I believe he will change as he grows into the role of Prime Minister. He’s a very bright man.

 

In the book, Laws tells of a lunch organised by radio king-maker John Brennan (who once said that Laws “had a voice that would curl a frangipani”) at which both Laws and Jones “laughed their heads off”. Laws says “Alan is great company.”

Given the ferocity of their long running feud, I ask if there is a chance of a similar breaking of bread with his onetime under study 2GB’s Ray Hadley?

Laws responds curtly: “No, I only have lunch with people I like…Ray has been bitter for a very long time, as I’ve often said, Ray Hadley always wants to be John Laws. But he can’t be, because I am.”

I attempt to dig deeper into the soul of the man, suggesting that there is a more spiritual Laws on display in the book. He feels there is a difference between believing in God and attending church: “All the Popes, Bishops, Cardinals and Deacons with their fancy garb mean little to me. There were no costly clothes or self-glorification for Jesus, and that says a lot about him.” That being said, Laws is unsure if there is an after-life, deferring to Kerry Packer’s famous quip after he ventured too close to the other side: ”There’s nothing there.”

On the topic of death, I queried him about a reporter’s recent insensitive question on the appeal of dying on the air. Laws offers a laugh, and quotes Woody Allen in response: “I’m not afraid of death I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

If it comes to it, who would play John Laws in the movie?

“I don’t think I could play a good Clint Eastwood, but I think Clint Eastwood might be able to play a good John Laws”.

 

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!

MALCOLM TURNBULL TAKES THE MILKY BAR KID DOWN FROM HIS HIGH HORSE

THE UNABRIDGED VERSION OF MALCOLM TURNBULL’S EXPLANATION TO KEVIN RUDD FOR NOT ENDORSING HIM FOR THE UNITED NATIONS GIG.
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.
Yours,
Malcolm Turnbull
PM

BE ALERT BUT NOT ALARMED BY TURNBULL’S DOG WHISTLE

By Mike Welsh
You can’t teach an old Dog Whistling political pro new tricks, it would seem.
malcolm-turnbull
Sitting in New York’s Penn Station in 2013, waiting to board an AMTRAK service to Washington, I’d struck up conversation with a attractive young Welsh woman who was heading back to her job at a Hershey spa in Pennsylvania. I was lost in her beautiful accent and the decadent  and delicious description of her role at the spa, when on my left came the gruff request of a large bearded Irishman …. “keep an eye on my backpack, mate”. Before I could say anything he’d dropped his swag and was gone. Alert, yes. Alarmed? you bet your sweet bippy I was. But what to do?. Say something?  There were thousands moving through the busy terminal. As this was my maiden “see something say something” moment I was determined not to make a complete knob of myself by yelling BOMB.
Malcolm Turnbull has yet to venture across Canberra to receive Vice Regal approval to go to the people, but he’s already pursing his lips and priming his Dog whistle.
The new $8m National Security hotline campaign message of “IF IT DOESN’T ADD UP, SPEAK UP”, is as loud and as clear as any dog whistling can be. Stick with the Turnbull Government and you will be protected from those evil terrorists.
It would appear, according to fresh and expensive taxpayer funded research, that we the taxpayers are generally ignorant in matters regarding the function or in some cases even existence of a National Security Hotline. The hotline was established post 9/11, to field calls from members of the public spooked by something which, to them at least, seemed suspicious. Which instantly begs two questions: when was the last time you saw something (suspicious) but didn’t say anything? And when was the last time, in your government recommended state of high alert, did you feel the need to resist becoming alarmed?
speak up pic 1
“IF IT DOESN’T ADD UP, SPEAK UP” is the nub of this cheesy TV campaign which shows a dude casually hailing a cab on a busy city street with an open bag at his feet. The scruffy man’s scruffy bag is gaping, revealing several unrealistic and large wads of cash (probably props left over from the production of UNDERBELLY), some electronic bits and pieces and two passports. Could this also mean that IT techs now on uber salaries choose to take taxis to the airport!!!
And a woman walking her nosey dog quickly spots an overflowing wheelie bin with a bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide and an empty container of Acetone front and centre. Beauty therapists beware! If only terrorists were as simple to spot as this poorly researched campaign suggests.
As we are paying for this research should we not be able to see the broad detail of the government’s findings? Otherwise it can only be deduced that the much less expensive 2002 “Be Alert, But Not Alarmed” campaign slogan is done and dusted. All worn out.
And while they are at it I would also be interested to know the demographic which “sees something” and actually “says something”? Of course “we don’t comment on security issues” would be the instant and convenient reply.

This scenario could be straight from an episode of the ABC’s Hollow Men where advertising types and political advisers attempt to justify their existence by simply refreshing a so called old and tired security slogan. Can you imagine the strategy meeting….

“If You See Something, Say Something” is so 2002 .It’s says absolutely nothing.  “If It Doesn’t Add up, Speak Up” is conceptually a holistic and organic paradigm shift in narrative. It actually says something very substantial. It speaks to the people and they hear what it is saying, Duh!

john howard
Is it possible callers to the National Security hotline are largely of the Commercial talkback radio caller ilk? Could the intended target of the dog whistle, sorry community information campaign, be the frightened middle aged, decent hard working battlers rusted on by John Howard through clever dog whistling messages during his long reign? Folks who see it as their role to peek through their lace curtains and observe the “suspicious goings on” at a neighboring house into which a large refugee family just moved? This once trusty and rusty bunch may have been spooked by the September 2015 Coalition leadership coup. Research may have revealed fans of Tony Abbott’s head-kicking style are suspicious of Mr Too Nice Guy Turnbull. Won’t hurt to get the Dog Whistle out anyway.
To spend $8m of taxpayer dollars on an advertising campaign which runs until just days before election day, to alert us to the existence of a well established Terrorist hotline, would suggest one of two things. Either we laid back Aussies have become complacent and possibly cavalier to the threat of terrorism, or the Turnbull government is desperate to retain power and running a scare campaign at our expense.
“no government could guarantee safety from terrorism but Australia was better placed than many of our European counterparts in dealing with the threat. This is because of the strength of our intelligence and security agencies, our secure borders and our successful multicultural society; one that manages to be both secure and free”. (Malcolm Turnbull March 2016)
amtrak X 1Meanwhile, back at Penn Station I could have yelled after the Irish terrorist, sorry tourist, that it was not a good idea to leave baggage unattended in a large passenger terminal. I considered telling my wife (I make it a rule to always have my her nearby when I’m chatting up tasty Welsh women whose occupation it is to pour melted chocolate over other women’s naked bodies) of my increasing ALARM and suggest we both quietly skulk off before the BOMB went off. I could share with chocolate lady my growing concerns over the backpack sitting (and possibly ticking) a metre to our left and hope she didn’t panic. Or I could, in a calm and orderly fashion, alert security of which thankfully there was a battalion. As I furiously pondered my predicament two security guards approached. “Your bag sir?”…”No sir”. Old mate did in fact return shortly after and was somewhat cross that security had taken his bag away for closer inspection. He wandered off in search of his belongings grumbling something unkind about me.  What did I do? I didn’t say anything.

 

HOW NECESSARY IS A REWRITING OF THE BOB ELLIS STORY?

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!!!