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!

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BRONNIE BISHOP’S BACK

By Mike Welsh

A piece I wrote for The Big Smoke on May 2016

Bronwyn Bishop has made her exit, but don’t count out her return. In some form, the Bish will be back.



Bronwyn Bishop has left the building. A building over which she had a terrifying influence, since her political love child Tony Abbott gifted her the Speaker’s Seat back in 2012. But, she will be back. Not in the big seat at the front, or even one at the back, but undoubtedly in the faces of those who betrayed her. And Tony Abbott would be at the very top of that bish list.

“It’s not the end. It is simply a change of direction and I look forward to serving further,” Bronwyn Bishop, April 2016.

The hard lady of conservative politics with a hide tougher than a mountain goat’s knee was eventually “choppered out” of office after the rarely-used but mostly effective method of crowbars, failed.

Embarrassment heaped upon humiliation was to follow with a bruising and public “boning” by the pre-selectors of the safe Liberal Northern Sydney Beaches seat of McKellar. But don’t assume for a moment that BB is gone.

The 73 year old former speaker made her valedictory speech last week, and left with head (and hair) held high, but not before slapping down the warning: “there is much more than meets the eye…in that saga (Tony Abbott), but not for now.”

Was this just the vague threat of a woman scorned, or is a book already in the pipeline? Is Tony Abbott Catholic?

You can bet your personally autographed “Ditch the Witch” placard a “tell all” is book being tapped/hammered out as we speak. And obviously, a book penned by Bronwyn Bishop while in full fit of pique would contain considerably sufficiently more spite and poison than a tome of John Howard’s waffling recollections of his tenure. (And would guarantee sales in excess of other nasty political tales such as the Latham Diaries and Nikki Savva’s Road To Ruin.)

But more to the point, what to call such a potential political best seller?

How I Outlasted Bob Ellis (by a Month)

The Two Bronnies (the Other Side of Bronwyn Bishop)

Bron’s Bronze (A Tough Lady’s Political Podium Finish)

To a degree, Bronwyn Bishop can seek succour from stubbornly sustaining a long and colourful career: a nice plump parliamentary pension; but sadly for Ms Bishop, her decades of public service will be scattered far and wide under the slashing roto-blades of the self-serving saga known as Choppergate.

The reality of the scandal which grew unnecessarily powerful wings will continue to hover forever over Bronwyn Bishop like a roaring squadron of Chinook military attack helicopters wherever she goes.

And that will cost a small fortune in hairdressing fees.

Hang on. There’s your book title… The Whirlybird Still Gets the Perm.

TONY ABBOTT CUTOUT PHOTOBOMBED BREAKFAST TV

There was an extra layer of political anticipation swirling in the air in Canberra this morning. Of course it was the day after Treasurer Scott Morrison’s maiden budget, but most of the serious media circus which had pitched a tent on the lawns of Parliament House had already metaphorically moved on.
The “ho hum” budget had to be addressed yes, but the real story has been the real story for weeks: The Federal election.
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All the usual performers, most with an unnecessary extra layer of clothing, were there, including 7s Sunrise co-host David Koch. “Kochie” was flying solo on the breakfast TV stool but didn’t have to worry for lack of female company as producers lined up three of the “glammest” girls to giggle and grapple with the fiscal fundamentals with the financial nerd on financial nerd’s biggest day.
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Nine’s Karl and Lisa made the effort and tripped to the Capital to bring the Canberra action as it happened, to their TODAY viewers.
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Even the “alternative” TV breakfast option, La Trioli and the mild mannered Michael Rowland deemed the event important enough to drop by and rightly poke fun at the mantra of the day “jobs and Growth”.
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But it was the unexpected “pop up” of an unexpected visitor, in the company of some strange political bedfellows which literally stole the show. A Sunrise Producer was heard pleading with one of the scores of AFP officers that the union mob with the smiling Tony Abbott cardboard cutout was cutting into their broadcast. And they were. They even had their own “floor manager” who was directing the comrade holding Abbott into the optimum possie for some national TV exposure. Story goes the unions had agreed to protest at the other end of the lawn from the TV network tent embassy. But they couldn’t resist an opportunity to photo-bomb on national TV.
 

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.
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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?
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“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.

 

FRANK ON THE HUSTINGS

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

 

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

james massola

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

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

 

The Broad Church wasn’t ready for this broad

 By Mike Welsh
Nikki Savva’s explosive book on the downfall of Tony Abbott may have just given birth to a new political idiom. It’s corny and it’s crude but it goes some of the way in summarising the sad and sorry saga.
LIVE BY THE BROAD  – DIE BY THE BROAD.
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“The Road To Ruin” promises an insight into how a dysfunctional government came tumbling down.
It appears from Savva’s book that the fault sits squarely at the feet of Peta Credlin, Abbott’s Chief of Staff, whom he allowed to stomp on way too many Conservative toes. And now it’s payback time.
Insiders have been reportedy lining up to take a swing at Credlin and to a lesser degree Abbott.
Savva’s book also provides details of other shenanaghans including “choppergate” and the culprit who broke a marble coffee table during a late night party in the freshly dislodged PM’s office. But it’s Credlin’s imposing footprint which looms large throughout the book and over its fallout.
Taking centre stage is the “perception” Credlin and Abbott were having an affair. Savva says several senior coalition colleagues raised the delicate topic with both parties. Brave move if we are to believe the extent of Credlin’s influence over Abbott and therefore the career prospects of those in and around the Abbott Government.
“Credlin not only possesses a large set of  testicles, she had almost sole custody and an “iron grip” on the now slightly less impressive and smaller set once attached to Tony Abbott”
 Once the sizzle of the alleged “hiding of the sausage” fades will there be a usable insight into the workings of the mind of the shirtfronting Rhodes scholar Abbott?. Here is the man who can rightly claim some authorship of the “A Headkickers Guide to Modern Politics” but apparently chose to ignore the red flags which were flapping in his face. What makes Abbott really tick doesn’t appear to be revealed to any extent on reading “The Road To Ruin”. That’s another book, or three, and surely worth much than $29.95
This is not the first book which attempts to explain what went wrong last October (at last count it’s number 3) but it is the most expansive critique to date of a Government which quickly squandered a healthy mandate and began to wobble out of control. It has all the right people saying the right things and of course more than a whiff of a sex scandal. A book promoter’s dream.
To date Abbott  is loathe to “rake over the coals” of the sordid tale but there were plenty who went on the record  to clearly point out Abbott would walk across the same coals to defend Credlin from criticism.
Credlin has described the book as “scurrilous gossip”.
Laurie Oakes gets close to nailing the essence of the story with his clever cover comment…”An Instant Classic”…. the weirder than weird story of a duo who couldn’t govern to save themselves”
nikki savvaSavva ‘s book brutally paints Credlin as  a disrespectful, bad tempered and bullying banshee. Apart from some interesting tidbits about the highly damaging “choppergate” scandal and Abbott’s rugby mate Joe Hockey’s table top tap dancing, the take home message is clear  …..Credlin not only owns a large set of testicles, she also had almost sole custody and an “iron grip” on the now slightly less impressive and smaller set once attached to Tony Abbott.