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.

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!

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?

 

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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