CANBERRA CITY NEWS JUNE 6

By Mike Welsh

SPARE a thought for recently re-elected ALP member for Fenner Andrew Leigh.

Poor sod spent countless hours smiling on early morning TV and arguing on late night “Q&A”, building a national profile, only to find himself on the backbench. 

The factionally unaligned Leigh was heading for a ministry in a Shorten government, but has been overlooked for a spot on Albo’s opposition team.

ANU economist Warwick McKibbin’s tweet: “When Andrew Leigh, the best economist in the parliament is not in the shadow ministry, you know something is wrong”, may test Leigh’s commitment to Labor’s cause. And the general consensus that Albo’s team is lined with “mediocrities”, would add to Leigh’s misery.

THE cruel dumping hasn’t dampened Leigh’s liking for a sledge, though. Leigh tweeted: “Since 2016, Labor has had a shadow minister for charities, now the Coalition has decided to copy the idea. Just two small downsides: 1. It’s an assistant minister. 2. It’s Zed Seselja. Perhaps they should be honest, and call him the assistant minister against charities?” Seselja fired back: “On the other hand, there appears to be little downside for the ALP in dumping you”. Ouch !!

FANS of angry-old-man-radio are pleased to learn Alan Jones remains on the wireless until at least his 80th birthday. AJ signed a two-year contract with 2GB, which relays parts of his breakfast show to Canberra via 2CC. The shock jock’s stablemate Ray Hadley, recently touted as a replacement should Jones “walk”, was quoted as being “comfortable” with the signing. Sources from inside the conservative bunker suggest Hadley is anything but.

RUGBY superstar David Pocock usually has plenty to say on issues dear to his heart but was more measured recently. As the sporting media gathered to hear his plans of enhancing his World Cup chances by quitting Super League and the Brumbies, Pocock virtually confirmed a post-rugby political career by impressively sidestepping the inevitable question about his future.

The South African-born athlete, who came to the capital in 2013, said: “The Brumbies have given me a home for the last seven years. They’ve supported me through injury and given me the opportunity to work on my game and my leadership as part of an incredible group of men”. 

The activist also thanked fans and the city: “Canberra has well and truly become my home. Em and I love living here, being part of the community.”

THE shock 2017 announcement of Belconnen Myer’s closure has been reversed. After a “new lease arrangement” was reached between the retail giant and Scentre (operator of Westfield), a downsized Myer will emerge at the Belconnen landmark.

AT nearby Hawker the pharmacy is now under the bright purple and orange banner of the Hawker Discount Drug Store, part of a chain spreading down the east coast and through the ACT. One local wag, showing his age, wanted to know if the drug store sold “ice-cream sodas” and if “Richie Cunningham and The Fonz would be dropping by”.

CANBERRA AFL stalwart Aaron Bruce has reached a special milestone in his long career. The Canberra Demons’ skipper notched up 150 NEAFL games, becoming only the fourth player in the comp’s history to do so.

Rupert Murdoch may be spending more time at his Yass weekender after the announcement of a new news site dedicated to Canberra (the ‘burbs not the bubble). Murdoch, who started “The Australian” in Braddon in 1964 has launched the Canberra Star digital-only site that will focus on “connecting with local communities who are often seeking new ways to stay in touch with what’s happening on their doorstep”.

FRIGHTENING reports are emerging across social media of food, possibly laced with poison, being tossed into Canberra backyards. A Flynn dog owner warned owners to be vigilant after her dog returned home with dark chocolate in its mouth. And a Bonython resident reported finding a raw chicken stuffed with rat poison in her yard.

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‘GREASE’ IS THE WORD WHEN IT COMES TO CAUSES

SINGING superstar Olivia Newton-John and more than a 100 Falun Gong practitioners separately visited Canberra.

Newton-John was in town to lobby the Turnbull government for more funding for cancer research while the yellow-jacketed adherents to Falun Dafa wanted to highlight the widespread practice of human organ harvesting in China.

The “Grease” star was warmly welcomed into the Turnbull inner sanctum and felt the love of starstruck Senators Hinch and Hanson. But after two days of getting physical on the lawns of Parliament House, the Falun Gong had to settle for a quick word from a little-known Greens senator. I guess it’s a case of horses for causes.

STILL on Senator Hanson and it’s safe to speculate that her Senate-stopping burqa stunt may have forced an upgrade of her personal security back to that of 1997.

In her 2007 autobiography “Untamed and Unashamed” the One Nation leader recalls “the intrusion” of being shadowed by two or three AFP officers from the moment she stepped from a flight at Canberra airport. Senator Hanson wrote: “I was told by the AFP that the threat against me was higher than against any other politician, including the then PM John Howard”.

WHETHER ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seseljavolunteered or drew the short straw to appear on “Q&A” is unknown. The Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs would have known he was the Christian being fed to the lions on the Monday night panel show. The conservative senator was strategically positioned between philosopher AC Grayling and Israeli politician Merav Michaeli – both of whom believe traditional marriage is sexist and should not exist in its current form. The father of five acquitted himself well despite being booed by audience members for his intention to vote no in the SSM postal survey.

MEANTIME, some same-sex couples in Canberra claim to be just plain weary from the debate. One woman who has been in a same-sex relationship for 30 years says she is simply “exhausted” and “exasperated”. Worn down by the relentless pressure of being the focus of attention, she says: “The issue is sucking the oxygen out of the room as it’s the only thing people are talking about”. And she is exasperated by the negative comments of the National Party leadership and the non-binding element of the survey outcome.

CANBERRA’S Crows’ supporters are in a state of excitement. A healthy and well established Adelaide Crows AFL supporters group – consisting of between 50 and 70 mostly ex-pats – has been gathering at each other’s homes to watch the Crows’ games. The group even has its own Facebook page, CrowACTive. The pride of SA in Friday’s preliminary final and warm favourites to win their first flag since 1999 – the year the Canberra support group formed.

ICONIC Civic cafe Gus’ has sprung back into life and, if the long queues on opening day were any indication, Canberrans certainly missed the Bunda Street establishment. Famous for being at the vanguard of al fresco dining in the 1960s, the revamped Gus’s Place has given Garema Place the nostalgic touch it is sadly losing.

WHILE the coffee house’s refurbishment was popular, construction at another iconic Canberra location has been broadly criticised. Within hours of the first metal panel of a new security fence on the lawns of Parliament House being set in concrete, criticism began to flow on social media with veteran press gallery writer Michelle Grattan tweeting “it’s appalling”. The 2.6-metre grilled fence is the centrepiece of an estimated $126 million security upgrade for Parliament House.

TWO large, handwritten banners on a house on Belconnen Way at Page are confusing some passersby. Seemingly set for demolition or a major renovation, the property bears two signs which boldly claim: “NOT A FLUFFY”. Is the owner/builder making a political statement on the controversial ’80s insulation or simply maintaining the real estate value of the surrounding area already dotted with Fluffy houses?