CANBERRA CITY NEWS DEC 5

“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.

Thanks for nothing! Photo: Mike Welsh

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)? 

The PM’s Stunt double. PIC SUPPLIED

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”.

Apple’s got you snapped. Photo: Mike Welsh

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.

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.

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.

DOH! SCOMO’S MYEFO TORPEDOED

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.

WHAT CAN YA DO?

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. 

Image repair

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?

 

CANBERRA CITY NEWS SEVEN DAYS DEC 10

https://citynews.com.au/

THE season of goodwill to all is slow to arrive in the capital if the selfishness of some Action bus passengers is any indication. 

Four males rudely pushed past women to get on first. With the bus full, the two three-person bench seats at the front – which have clear signs for younger passengers to give up seats for pregnant, disabled and elderly travellers – contained three millennials on one and a man and his large parcel on the other. 

A request from the female bus driver for someone to give up their seat for an elderly passenger was ignored.

PRIME Minister Scott Morrison fired the starter’s pistol on the election campaign with a ferocious Question Time spray at the member for the bellwether seat Eden Monaro. 

Morrison accused Dr Mike Kelly of cockiness: “I notice the hubris I’m hearing from the member for Eden-Monaro. He’s walking around his electorate. He thinks it’s all over bar the shouting”. 

ScoMo warned the former soldier: “You’re in for a very big fight, the Australian people do not want $200 billion of higher taxes in the mortgage belt of Queanbeyan or down the south coast”.

STILL in campaign mode and bellwether seats, straight-talking NSW Nationals’ leader John Barilaro has ripped into the Federal Liberal Party over damaging infighting. The member for Monaro told local radio: “The ‘Hill’ was sucking all the oxygen out of politics” which was denying NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and him the clear air they need to get their message out before March’s state poll. The Deputy Premier bemoaned, “politics is bad at the moment”.

ANYONE who knows the ‘Poeys – ACT Brumbies vice-captain David Pocock and his wife Emma – knows the pair does things differently. Although the committed Christian couple had a commitment ceremony in 2010, they pledged not to marry until Australia’s same-sex marriage laws changed. The activist pair has now officially tied the knot, announcing the news on Twitter.

David tweeted: “Married my best mate yesterday”, with pics of the pair in the bush under a gum tree with only a celebrant and an Esky. Emma tweeted: “I endorse this tweet”.

I WON’T be reading superstar Jackie Chan’s memoir “Never Grow Up” in which he describes himself as a nasty jerk, but some Canberrans may be interested. Before superstardom, Chan spent some of his adolescence in the capital. Jackie’s parents were employed at the US embassy, with the teenage Jackie joining them for a period in the mid-70s. Jackie also learnt English at mature-age student ESL classes at Dickson College.

Actor Samuel Johnson… edited letters for “Dear Santa”. Photo by Mike Welsh

A NEW book with strong Canberra connections is actor Samuel Johnson’s latest work. The Gold Logie-winning performer enlisted some of his famous friends and their friends to submit letters to Santa for “Dear Santa”Johnson edited the Christmas correspondence of Missy HigginsMolly MeldrumDeborah MailmanGrant Denyer and many more. The actor has helped raise more than $10 million for the charity Love Your Sister, which he established with his sister, Canberra mother-of-two Connie, who died in 2017 after a long battle with cancer. Some proceeds from the book will go to cancer research.

JOHN Howard has raised an old bugbear with some Canberrans. With the release of the 1996-97 Cabinet files, the former PM says he has no regrets choosing to live in Kirribilli House in Sydney rather than on Adelaide Avenue. The Liberal Party elder statesman accepts many locals were offended by his choice of digs while in office.

LIVING in The Lodge does have its advantages though as the four Keating siblings will attest. With the passing of former US president George H W BushKatherine, Patrick, Caroline and Alexandra won’t forget January 1, 1992, and the thoughtfulness of the visiting Mr Bush and First Lady Barbara, who invited the Keating kids to join them on Air Force One on a flight from Sydney to Canberra.

WHEN THE CANBERRA BUBBLE GUM BLOWS UP IN YOUR FACE

By Mike Welsh

I have been talking about the word/phrase of 2018 for a while.  This from my City News Seven Days Column https://citynews.com.au

PRIME Minister Scott Morrison’s recent Queensland bus tour seems to have unleashed his inner Trump. ScoMo’s constant negative reference to the “Canberra bubble” has the US President’s “drain the swamp” written all over it. Morrison’s double thumbs up gesture and glib and dismissive responses to journalists’ questions are also more than a little Trumplike. But the real test for the born-again bonza bloke from the Shire will be ockerising his dog whistling on immigration policy borrowing the Don’s “we have some bad hombres here and we are gonna get them out”.

FOR those struggling with the precise parameters of the “Canberra bubble”, Canberra freelance writer Angela Shanahan has made the task more difficult. In a piece in “The Australian” on the territory’s eliminating legal exemptions to the anti-discrimination laws pertaining to freedom of religion, Shanahan accuses the Barr government of “living in a world of their own” referring to the ACT as a “little socialist republic”. Given the size of the territory and Angela’s special insight into the “bubble”, is it too much to ask she shed light on where the “world of their own” ends and the “bubble” begins?

CITY NEWS NOV 22

ONE solitary rainbow roundabout in a city of roundabouts is nothing more than a lonely landmark. That’s according to spokesperson for BURT (Braddon United Retailers and Traders) Kel Watt.

A year on from the “Yes” marriage equality postal survey, Watt says: “There are multiple roundabouts in Braddon, with two less than 100 metres from the Rainbow Roundabout” that “could also become symbols of adversity, challenges and triumphs for other causes”. 

The BURT mouthpiece says rather than being the “butt of jokes by the rest of the country” Braddon’s roundabouts could become “celebrated icons”.

PENIS-owl envy is alive and well in the world of controversial public art. Seems Belconnen’s owl, the one that apparently looks like a penis, may have a doppelganger. Pictures have popped up on social media of a piece of public art recently unveiled in the northern Serbian town of Kikinda, prompting many “eagle eyed” Canberrans to make a comparison between it and the phallic structure standing proud at the end of Benjamin Way.
SOME Canberra Liberals are seriously questioning Zed Seselja’s political judgement with the ACT senator inviting former PM Tony Abbott to an upcoming fundraiser. For $150 a head ($60 for members) supporters can enjoy drinks and canapes with the member for Warringah at Menzies House in Barton, Tuesday, November 27. Senior Liberal and longtime Abbott pal Michael Yabsley recently said: “The Liberal Party’s healing process would be accelerated if Tony Abbott were to vacate”.

PRIME Minister Scott Morrison’s recent Queensland bus tour seems to have unleashed his inner Trump. ScoMo’s constant negative reference to the “Canberra bubble” has the US President’s “drain the swamp” written all over it. Morrison’s double thumbs up gesture and glib and dismissive responses to journalists’ questions are also more than a little Trumplike. But the real test for the born-again bonza bloke from the Shire will be ockerising his dog whistling on immigration policy borrowing the Don’s “we have some bad hombres here and we are gonna get them out”.


FOR those struggling with the precise parameters of the “Canberra bubble”, Canberra freelance writer Angela Shanahan has made the task more difficult. In a piece in “The Australian” on the territory’s eliminating legal exemptions to the anti-discrimination laws pertaining to freedom of religion, Shanahan accuses the Barr government of “living in a world of their own” referring to the ACT as a “little socialist republic”. Given the size of the territory and Angela’s special insight into the “bubble”, is it too much to ask she shed light on where the “world of their own” ends and the “bubble” begins?


Alan Jones’ loyal Canberra listeners have been forced to wait to see any change to his presentation. The man they call “the parrot” reportedly had his wings clipped by management for a number of on-air indiscretions but has been forced off-air with a bad back. The 78-year-old, syndicated through 2CC, was apparently in strife for, among other “sins”, uttering the “N” word, being found guilty of defaming three Queensland brothers at a cost of $3.7 million and for his ungentlemanly conduct during a recent interview with Opera House CEO Louise Herron. Speculation among Sydney radio types is that with the Nine/Fairfax merger (which includes 2GB) kicking in soon, Jones’ long-term future is unclear.

Loneliness is an unloved Airbike on a traffic island on Commonwealth Avenue. Photo by Mike Welsh

CANBERRA’S six-month trial of a dockless bike share is almost over and it appears Canberrans have treated the scheme with more respect than other jurisdictions. While there is no evidence of Airbike bikes finishing up in lakes, many are drifting outside the “dedicated bike parking zones” and slipping under the “geo-fencing technologies”. One bike spent days leaning outside the public toilets at O’Connor shops, another was spotted parked on a traffic island on Commonwealth Avenue and a third has been buried in a hedge near Black Mountain School for most of the past two weeks.

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