By Mike Welsh
Talking about the weather, as we all mostly seem to do, the drought has finally broken and it was an elderly (is there any other?) Alan Jones listener who predicted it. Not only did she comprehensively and succinctly “call it” she did so with nothing more than the aid of a simple and totally unscientific method. Ants.
Many people, myself included myself, believed Irish smart arse Oscar Wilde had uttered the durable and useful phrase “everyone talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it”. While Wilde is responsible for the cynical and snobbish “conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative”, American wise guy Mark Twain gets credit for a clever take on the topic about which everyone talks but does nothing.
It turns out Twain often “banged on” about the weather, including an unkind comment about spending a “cold winter San Francisco in the summer”. But even from when the dawning of the age of Aquarius in that cold “Summer in the City” first “let the Sunshine in”, motivating creative folk the world over to have “thunder in their hearts”, “walk on sunshine”, “chase” and “catch the wind”, stand, sing, cry, dance and even get naked in the rain which was sometimes “hard” and at least once, “purple”, no one has topped Twain’s astute observation of humanity’s apathy to all things meteorological. That is until Alan Jones’ listener, Thelma last week.
Not CSIRO boffins nor the raft (a pet Alan phrase) of climate experts and scientists who’ve conscientiously mulled over data the divisive debate has coughed up for decades had come within a bull’s roar of predicting the end of our crippling drought.
But there it was, live on my AM radio ( I know, it’s a dirty and unsociable habit like nose picking) at 6.52 on Tuesday morning. Alan shared the profound thoughts of listener Thelma who wrote.. “all this climate change guff” was just that. And if only someone had “bothered to ask me I’d have been able to tell them”,Thel offered and explained…..”ants have returned to my pantry and that means the drought is broken”. And right on cue it began to piss down biblical all the way down from Queensland to southern NSW and into Victoria and is still coming down five days later.
Yet just a few hours after Thel’s BOM beating bombshell, hoards of angry people began descending on the lawns of our Federal Parliament armed with placards saying nasty and hurtful things about good ole ScoMo who was leading his embattled LNP troops back into battle for a new year just a few hundred metres up the hill. If only the protesters had tuned into Alan Jones show that day they’d be much wiser and less confused and conflicted about the climate. And less ignorant when talking about the weather.
And a tip for new Q & A man Hamish McDonald. If you desire the dizzyingly high rating numbers and frenzied Tuesday water cooler post mortems the other ‘Jones Boy (with the occasional assistance of the real ‘Jones boy) incited, put Thel up against palaeontologist and environmentalist Prof Tim Flannery and allow her to unleash her undoubtedly extensive list of tried and true methods of predicting weather patterns. Thel may even also have a few other gems up her gnarly old hand knitted beige cardigan sleeves. Such as a nifty but non surgical method of ridding oneself of warts ***. Champagne television guaranteed.
I’ve attempted to remain faithful to my mother’s considered rebuke of my bagging of humans quoting Max Ehrmann of Desiderata fame …“and listen to others. Even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story”. But there is a limit.
Back in the day (before climate change) I once made the rookie mistake of sitting too close to a barfly in a city hotel one quiet afternoon. Though mercifully a man of few words the barfly was generous enough to share with me his breathtaking and dangerously sweeping conspiracy theory that “the pill has made women savage” .
A Q & A topic for another day. Bettina Arndt?
*** Take a dead cat to a cemetery at midnight and just like magic your warts are dust.
By mike welsh
At Friday’s hastily organised climate rally in Canberra’s traditional meeting place, Garema Place ,many of the protester’s signs had a clear message for Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Several placards clearly featured the word FUCK but a couple went hard (depending on your point of view) featuring the contentious C word to express their obvious low opinion of the PM.
In 2015 three protesters at an Anti Homophobia rally in Sydney were charged by police for yelling “fuck off” and “fuck Fred Nile” aimed at Christian Democrat leader Fred Nile. But later a judge dismissed the charges deeming the “F” word was as no longer offensive. But is the “C” still contentious?
From under my rock I was (until recently) firm in the belief that use of the C word (widely used as an insult to express utter contempt for someone) was still taboo and restricted for a very small section of society.
A female millennial suggests the casual use of the word is “more about breaking down the double standard that it’s ok for men to use the word but not “lady like” for a woman to use it’.
If I walked through the heart of any Australian city holding aloft a sign suggesting the PM of the day-or anyone else for that matter- was a See You Next Tues would/should I be arrested?
The most common argument for the casual use of the “c” word is that it’s about ownership.
One protester had a double sided banger message for ScoMo but as far as I’m aware she was not arrested.
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?
“Seven Days” columnist MIKE WELSH reflects on his highlights of a year of life and news in Canberra.
LIGHT RAIL eventually rolled at Easter with near misses involving dopey pedestrians and motorists dominating headlines since.
MLA Shane Rattenbury jumped aboard the “I’ve taken Ecstasy Too” bandwagon amid pill testing debates, while Labor minister Meegan Fitzharris opted “to spend more time with family”. Liberal leader Alistair Coe disingenuously confessed to “needing a miracle” to win the next election, but a more politically astute Andrew Barr snagged underdog status.
ACROSS the border, NSW Nationals boss John Barilaro punched way above his weight telling former party boss Barnaby Joyce to “shut his mouth”. Still on the putting-a-sock-in-it department… tennis great John Newcombe told Nick Kyrgios to “zip it” after the young champ’s big mouth again brought him grief.
BOLLARDS at Hawker shops may soften the precinct’s reputation as a crime hotspot. Olive restaurant was firebombed, Woolworths was targeted by ram raiders, and a similar method was employed to enter the new discount pharmacy.
BURNT-out stolen vehicles littered our roadsides. One stolen car that avoided a fiery end had 3000 kilometres added to the clock and $1850 in fines accrued when found seven days later.
BOB Hawke’s death in May brought many tales including one from 1957 when he was one of “five naked students who in very high spirits, swam in University House’s ornamental goldfish pond” at ANU.
SYDNEY journalist Eddy Jokovich reneged on a vow to “walk nude from Sydney to Canberra balancing a pumpkin on my head” if ScoMo won May’s federal election.
MANUKA Oval’s renovations drew poetic praise from cricket writers with one evoking an idyllic village green: “There can’t be too many venues where you hear batsmen call and church bells on a Sunday”. The venue was again the focus of attention when snow fell on a Friday night AFL match. And across the road a troublesome London plane tree was finally felled after a long battle by locals to save it.
A MODIFIED Fight Club complete with betting was uncovered at one of our more exclusive boys schools before being discreetly closed down.
THE Caps’ broke an eight-year premiership drought, but our adopted AFL outfit the GWS Giants suffered a humiliating Grand Final loss. The Brumbies pushed deep into the international rugby finals and, as for the boys from Bruce, it may still be too soon to discuss the “theft” that allegedly occurred at ANZ Stadium in Oct.
OUR local radio scene was tipped on its head after 2CC opted to network its breakfast program from Sydney, punting Tim Shaw for Alan Jones. And after three years of rising early Dan Bourchier pulled the pin at the ABC’s Triple 6.
DELIVERY drones buzzed around despite a threatened “attack”. An anonymous biblical command posted at Crace warned: “Cease the flying of your wicked, ungodly abomination lest the Lord smite them and bring punishment upon you.”
SEVENTY-seven-year-old Adrienne Carpenter walked from Collector to Parliament House to protest the treatment of local barrister Bernard Collaery, but there was no-one to greet her.
NO such snub for movie heavyweights Hugo Weaving, Rhys Muldoon and Gillian Armstrong who dropped by to lobby for more local content. Pollies of all hues scrambled for selfies.
OPENING doors in the capital took on new meaning after a visiting Victorian MP attempted to kick down a Barton hotel door to get his luggage.
CONSTRUCTION giant Geocon’s sexist promotional signage attracted the wrath of feminists. But a sign, waved by four female students in full uniform of a local christian school, presented an unambiguous take on climate change at a rally in Glebe Park.
WHAT two globetrotting Canberra Catholic nuns thought of the protestants’ placard is unknown. Sister Judy Bowe and Sister Therese Mills were far too busy being reality TV stars on “The Amazing Race”.
“SEVEN Days” Doggo of the Year is this helpful hound, snapped aiding his human find a car park at Cooleman Court.
“Seven Days” columnist MIKE WELSH reflects on another astonishing week in the nation’s capital.
MOTHER Nature has been giving the capital a decent whack. Early week high temperatures suddenly plummeted with snow forecast for the Brindabellas while bushfires loomed around Braidwood. A dust storm became a smoke haze and high winds whipped up a “swell” on Lake Burley Griffin.
STILL on matters meteorological, spare a thought for the skywriter tasked with the relatively simple job of writing “Thanks Team”. A rare window opened on Wednesday between heavy dust storms and thick smoke haze, offering clear blue skies. Not wishing to pan the penmanship of the pilot, but by the time they began “team”, “thanks” resembled an ultrasound image.
MAJOR players in Canberra’s building industry are crying foul over pressure from the Barr government to run dodgy builders out of town. The directors say the government’s approach is “misdirected”, suggesting it should “stop hassling head office and get out on construction sites if it wants to improve building quality”.
Barry Morris, director of the Morris Property Group, says: “Developers were not to blame for problems around building quality. The ACT government is going the wrong way on the food chain.”
Is it possible the local construction industry has fallen victim to TBS (Tall Building Syndrome)?
ON the lawns of Parliament House, local students participated in a Climate Classroom Rally. Organisers say “the aim of the action is to show the Australian Parliament what real democracy looks like; teaching each other about climate crisis and working together as an inclusive community.” The Prime Minister was invited but due to a constant caning inside a stunt double was wheeled out.
ALL the usual cliches, from “rumbles” through to a “united party” were also wheeled out in the days following reports of a local Liberal leadership spill. A small number of “disaffected” members, concerned they couldn’t win the 2020 election with ultra-conservative Alistair Coe, were reportedly urging Elizabeth Lee to step up.
A self-imposed confidentiality agreement prevents me from naming who I believe would lead the local Libs out of the wilderness. However, if the “status Coe” remains we will miss the rare opportunity of having the nation’s first colour-blind, race-calling, ex-radio announcer as CM, and may be forced to endure the spectacle of a rebranded Alistair (“call me Al”) Coe in a baseball cap, thumbs up, drinking beer with randoms at sporting events for the next 12 months.
NOT missing the free kick, Chief Minister Andrew Barr offered a running commentary on the disharmony, describing the libs as “the most right wing of any party room in Australia”, adding Alistair Coe “is the most conservative leader the Liberals have ever had”.
ACT Greens leader Corrections Minister Shane Rattenbury will be looking for 2019 to end. The member for Molonglo has had a horror year with attacks coming from all sides, mostly over his handling of the troublesome Alexander Maconochie Centre.
Nicknamed “the rat” by local greyhound trainers protesting a ban on their sport in 2017, the MLA will be hoping 2020, “the year of the rat”, will bring relief.
INTERNATIONAL diplomacy comes in many forms but it’s unusual for an ambassador to be bagging his country’s capital. The latest round of Canberra Bashing came from veteran diplomat Gary Quinlan, our ambassador to Indonesia.
Responding to a question at the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club about plans to move Indonesia’s capital from Jakarta to the island of Kalimantan, Quinlan said Canberra was “one of the biggest national mistakes we ever made”. Quinlan warned a lesson locals could learn from the Canberra model is it was too spread out in the early days and “had no natural centre”.
WHILE Mr Quinlan may have fallen out of love with Canberra one tech giant is keen to look deeper into our city. An Apple Maps white Subaru with what appears to be an R2D2 type robot strapped to its roof has been cruising around gathering images and information for its new “Look Around” feature.
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.
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.
By Mike Welsh
WAKE ME UP BEFORE YOU GO LOW
‘What can ya do’ might be Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s private mantra lately but no doubt he’ll put a polished spin on the latest roadblock placed in his path to Adelaide Ave and a legitimate mandate from the people next year.
It’s the National party (this time) which is creating damage to the conservative brand but it still must be dealt with and dealt with quickly.
For the nationals indeed ‘what do you do’ when your bench is bare and you only have Barnaby Joyce skulking in the wings. The last thing you need is the man from Hong Kong Mallee MP Andrew Broad.
The Nationals have a leadership problem but lately when country cousins have a problem their slicker city conservative relatives also have a problem.
National’s leader and soon to step in as acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack is not for the long haul. That is clear.
Andrew Broad or, if New Idea is driving the narrative, “Randy Andy” has quit after ‘considering his future’. The “Mallee Bull’ has stumbled off the pious political platform he build after being outed as a cad by the gutter mag New Idea.
A cosy arrangement with a malleable Canberra press gallery which- when it suits-‘respectfully’ remains within the ‘what goes on in Canberra etc etc’ – is now seemingly off. Now shamless scandal mag New Idea has entered new waters by exposing a political sex scandal. With Karl Stephanovic losing his badboy appeal and Shane Warne and Nick Kyrgios behaving themselves the mag seemingly has been forced to “grow the biz” by other means. Has New Idea pricked the Canberra bubble ?
There are plenty in and outside the ‘bubble’ who, smugly, claim to know what goes on.
The one-time adviser to Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm Helen Dale (aka Helen Demidenko of Miles Franklin infamy) this year shared some salacious tit bits picked up from her time in the capital.
“Politicians, staffers and reporters circle each other warily but also socialise, aided by alcohol and bonhomie.
“Wednesday evenings, when sittings are truncated and everyone’s diary fills with boozy events, have been known to generate more sex than Canberra’s brothels.”
Could New Idea’s straying beyond the respectful boundaries of the bubble potentially reveal a big bowl of trouble for others?.
For the Nationals though all is not lost. The grand-daddy of all badboys, Barnaby Joyce, has finally grown up and settled down. Joyce is reportedly ready and willing to crack the whip again and take over from the poor unfortunate “Micky Mac” who may well go down as one of the most beige Deputy Prime Ministers of all time.
The former first lady Michelle Obama hit a high note on political Ps and Qs in 2016 when she said “when they go low we go high”
But how low do they have to go before the Nats give Barnaby another go?