Manuka was more of a “lovely village than Rodeo Drive” where “the Downtown milk bar was the place to be seen on Sundays for ice-cream and coffee” and “Le Rendezvous would be packed out for their great pizza after the Capitol Theatre’s evening session”. Locals would regularly spot Sir John Gorton out buying a paper or Manning Clark or Sir Mark Oliphant chatting with people in the street.

CANBERRA-raised rock star Steve Kilbey is heading back on the road with his iconic band The Church. A national tour marking the 30th anniversary of the 1988 album “Starfish” – which included the hit “Under the Milky Way” – will also take in Canberra.
Promoting the tour, the Lyneham High-educated musician told ABC TV about representing the ACT in a debating competition with NSW. Kilbey’s family billeted a member of the visiting team, a young man by the name of Malcolm Bligh Turnbull. Kilbey’s mother predicted Turnbull would one day be Prime Minister.

mal sevan days.jpg
STILL on nostalgia and a recent newspaper report on Manuka’s changing commercial complexion (more cafes than fashion stores) has long-time locals reminiscing of the days before the strip earned the name “Rodeo Drive”.
The article reported concerns by business operators that the region had gone from a “bustling” business hub to being “neglected” by landlords and the ACT government.
Meantime, one long-term local business owner fondly recalls old Manuka as more of a “lovely village than Rodeo Drive” where “the Downtown milk bar was the place to be seen on Sundays for ice-cream and coffee” and “Le Rendezvous would be packed out for their great pizza after the Capitol Theatre’s evening session”. Locals would regularly spot Sir John Gorton out buying a paper or Manning Clark or Sir Mark Oliphant chatting with people in the street.



THE priority for rights of the individual is trumping calls for anti-consorting laws to counter a growing threat by outlaw motorcycle gangs has returned to take a giant chunk out of the Barr government’s backside. In 2014 then Attorney-General Simon Corbell insisted he would not move on anti consorting laws until the ACT could “achieve human rights compliant legislation”.
But as a violent wave of lawlessness sweeps across once quiet and safe suburbs, police say it’s only a matter of time before an innocent bystander is caught in the crossfire of a turf war involving four bikie chapters.

THE ACT’S latest recycling initiative, the Container Deposit Scheme (CDS), is already paying dividends, but not necessarily to the intended beneficiary.
Two enterprising individuals were spotted at the Mitchell Recycling Drop Off Centre loading already recycled food and drink containers into their car, presumably to recycle them all over again at one of the new CDS depots and pocket 10 cents an item. How long before a spoke is inserted into the wheel of this recycle scam?

CANBERRA’S latest radio survey would suggest ABC Radio listeners have calmed down after last year’s on-air reshuffle and returned to the fold. Michelle Ainsworth, 666’s editor, said: “The continued success is a result of the hard work the station puts in across platforms to engage with the local audience”.
Reality is the national broadcaster’s large and rusted-on Canberra radio audience didn’t go anywhere, it simply registered displeasure via a survey diary but maintained listening habits. It’s what Canberra ABC listeners do.

HAS a shifty and barefaced piece of pork barrelling become an episode of the BBC classic “Yes Minister”? The relocation of more than 170 Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority staff from Canberra to Armidale has not gone to plan. After personal trauma, staff resignations, high cost to the taxpayer and damaging political fallout, it now appears between 30 and 40 staff (including specialist scientists and “decision makers”) will stay put in the capital.

WHEN a politician calls for community consultation it invariably means they have nothing and are simply hoping the electorate will be placated by being included. Addressing accusations that a scheme by which ACT clubs must pay 8 per cent of pokies’ profits to community groups is flawed, Gaming Minister Gordon Ramsay has abdicated his duties in the typical fashion by wanting “to hear the community’s and industry’s views about what is good about the scheme, and how it could be improved or changed”.



By Mike Welsh 

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. IMG_4458.JPG

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.

The source of Peacock’s fit of pique was also the reason for his tardiness. 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.

 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?


By Mike Welsh

AS hard as he might try, ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja is simply not a convincing “nodder”. Contemporary political press conference nodders are a sight to behold.ZED IN RED

These polished performers have an impressive range of plausible, thoughtful expressions. A pensive pose, a pious pout, a deft display of disgust. But Zed’s awkward, shifty body language while standing behind the PM screamed he either didn’t want to be seen with Malcolm or that Top Hat had farted.


On long road trips finding clean toilets is always a challenge. Just found the best one ever. Clean, odour free, hot water, soap and towels.

ABORIGINAL man Clinton Pryor walks from WA to Canberra to inform politicians of the shameful plight of his people and battles to even get past the forecourt of the Federal Parliament.

clinton pryor

Yet if you’ve clocked up a few red-carpet miles you are greeted with a green light and a conga line of political parasites. Star of the ABC series Rake Richard Roxburgh and Emmy award winner Judy Davis headlined an all-star cast in town with a message for lawmakers. Under the banner “Make It Australian”, the group called on the government to broaden local content rules to counter the threat posed to the domestic TV and film industry by Netflix and Amazon.

A LARGE kangaroo invading a sports field in suburban Canberra is pretty much a normal occurrence, although one such incident has excited many people. A video of an eastern grey hopping around the Deakin Oval during a soccer match has gone viral on social media. I now regret not recording the large roo that made an appearance on Tuggeranong’s Greenway Oval several weeks back. The animal leapt the fence near the scoreboard, bounded through the midfield like Chris Judd in a fur coat settling in the pocket at the other end of the oval to watch the final quarter of the – until then – mundane AFL game.


STILL on social media and Canberra give yourself a row of pats-on-the-back emojis. A new study of the online habits of more than 1500 Australians has discovered that ACT residents used Twitter more (25 per cent) than any other group ahead of NSW and Victoria. The study also revealed more Canberrans use LinkedIn than any other state or territory. On average, Canberrans post on Twitter 35 times a  week.

AND what better way to consolidate our new status than to have one of the world’s most famous users of social media stop by? As POTUS will be in the neighbourhood, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation leaders’ summit in Papua New Guinea in November, the inevitable speculation is that Donald Trump drops by The Lodge to hang with his BFF Mr Trumble.

AFTER a week of sub-zero overnight temperatures the kind folk of the NT have been thinking of we poor sods here in the capital.

The “NT News” has tweeted: “Dear residents of the capital of Australia, sending you our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time. Lots of love, Darwin.” Attached to the heartwarming message was a graphic, just in case we weren’t already aware of the stark disparity of our climates.

WHILE we appreciate the warm vibes emanating from the north there are other more serious issues that twin the territories. According to “The Australian”, conservative MP Kevin Andrews has “expressed his deep disappointment” with PM Malcolm Turnbull and warned of a “secret deal” facilitated by the Prime Minister paving the way for introduction of euthanasia in the NT and ACT.

FORMER Canberra political power couple Mary Porter and Ian De Landelles may have serendipitously stumbled upon a new career in retirement. From the cluttered space of food/travel/lifestyle bloggers the pair has emerged as promising Bog Bloggers. De Landelles filed the following on his Facebook account: “On long road trips finding clean toilets is always a challenge. Just found the best one ever. Clean, odour free, hot water, soap and towels. Mary tells me the women’s even had fresh flowers.” The impressive lavatory is at Walcha, NSW.



AN awkward silence exists in the wake of the Weekend Australian’s cover story ” A Family Affair”  which exposes the predatory sexual behaviour of several celebrity arts figures in the 1970s. Writer Rosemary Neill says reveals “Growing up in a licentious household in the care-free 1970s had a devastating consequences” for the children of celebrated poet and playwright Dorothy Hewett.

“Swaggering, starry identities — among them Brett Whiteley, Patrick White, Martin Sharp, Bob Ellis and British photographer David ­Hamilton — passed through the girls’ lives; many illustrious names from the theatre, film, literary and visual art worlds were frequent visit­ors to the family terrace in Woollahra in Sydney’s east.

How this explosive feature plays out- in particular for the legacy of filmmaker Ellis- will be interesting.

I wrote the following after Ellis’ death in April 2016
By Mike Welsh
Bob Ellis who died at the weekend, has been variously described as “one of the finest scoundrels our nation has had the good fortune of sharing” (Rhys Muldoon); “the Truest of True Believers” (Kevin Rudd); and “he dispensed his views both barrels and full blast and to hell with the consequences” (Everald Compton). It’s a fair start but fails dismally to describe the essence of the writer/playwright/filmmaker/wrecker of conservative political ambitions. Muldoon probably goes as close as anyone who tried to “nail” the real Bob Ellis.
Last year I reread Goodbye Jerusalem , the 1997 book by Bob Ellis. In fact it was the second book of Bob’s I’d revisited. I had also picked up for a second time the more contemporary and less controversial 2010 Ellis political tome Suddenly, Last Winter (An Election Diary)
My review copy of Goodbye Jerusalem is special because it survived a pulping publisher Random House was forced to undertake after legal action from Liberal MPs Tony Abbott and Peter Costello and their spouses.
Goodbye Jerusalem was described at the time as a ‘wake’ of sorts. Ironically, Bob Ellis in public always looked as though he was in a slow motion hurry, possibly heading to or returning from the wake of yet another famous Australia actor/writer/ALP stalwart or sundry other notorious person whom he’d known for years…You wouldn’t know who Bob Ellis knew.

bob ellis books pic

I only knew Bob Ellis from the many phone interviews he generously participated in for my radio program. By far, for my money, Bob’s best caper was vowing to destroy (politically) Bronwyn Bishop by taking her on in a by-election for the Blue Ribbon (Sydney) Northern Beaches seat of McKellar.

“I knew him by name only, as the author of the play The Legend of King O’Malley and was surprised when a friend assured me that he was regarded as a genius amongst Sydney’s political/intellectual push”. TV Producer Ian McFadyen.

The friend also told McFadyen that “Women wanted to have Bob Ellis’ children.”

The essence of Ellis’s eccentricity and storytelling skill is in the Goodbye Jerusalem chapter, Six Degrees of Separation. Bob brilliantly demonstrates his almost unique grasp of Kevin Bacon’s game, in which a group of players attempt to connect a nominated actor to Bacon in as few steps as possible. Discussing the 1993 Fred Schepisi movie “Six Degrees of Separation” and to ease the boredom on a long road trip with director Michael Jenkins (Blue Murder, Scales of Justice), Ellis takes up the challenge and prunes Bacon’s concept further….to three degrees of separation. And manages to create a uniquely Australian example in the process.

bob ellis election poster

Bob wrote speeches for singer Kamal who corresponded regularly with Sir Donald Bradman. Ellis’s father lived next to the Darcy family in East Maitland and sparred with a young Les Darcy. And Bob worked with the man who made Phar Lap the movie. An impressive trifecta but as Bob was wont to say often…”and so on, and so it goes”.
In almost any chapter of Bob Ellis’s illustrious and colourful life he could easily nail an entertaining result within the allotted six steps of Bacon’s popular parlour game. One of his favourites involves the late Robert Hughes (art critic not sit-com actor). Bob Hughes’ brother is the Q.C. Tom Hughes, whose daughter Lucy is married to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose Auntie is the actress Angela Lansbury, whose father George Lansbury was the British Labour leader in Britain in the 1930s.
Another book I have read more than twice is Frank Hardy’s Four Legged Lottery. Frank Hardy’s grand-daughter is the writer Marieke Hardy who has a female dog named Bob Ellis and a tattoo which reads “and so on, and so it goes”. Three degrees of separation!!!


City News

DESPITE a relatively unremarkable-to-date annual kangaroo cull, an animal rights activist is spooking Canberra motorists.

The protester sets up on Mugga Lane most afternoons between 3 and 6, complete with corflutes and a lifelike kangaroo mask, urging passersby to “stop the kangaroo massacre”, which is “cruel and catastrophic”.

Some motorists toot in approval, others give a lengthy blast to show displeasure and occasionally yell obscenities.

While our intrepid activist is cull-campaign toughened, one recent experience left the protester blindsided.

The driver of a large black, four-wheel drive pulled in after dark one night, then quickly left. The driver returned the following night armed with a portable light and a supply of batteries, “to make sure people see your sign”.

LRVs are coming and they are fast. Posters are popping up in shopping centres warning that LRVs (Light Rail Vehicles) are “approaching” and posing the question: “Are you Rail Ready?” has begun training commuters to “only cross at designated intersection crossings”, pointing out that LRVs move quickly and that “earphones and other distractions can put you at risk”.

Meantime cynics who scoffed at a 2018 Stage 1 deadline may have a glimmer of hope with the wriggle room that appears to have been applied to the latest update.

The word is that the project will be completed on schedule by the end of 2018 with the first passengers carried in the first quarter of 2019.

As for Stage 2 it appears to be way ahead of schedule, given there is no schedule. A large “light rail stops here” banner is plastered across the facade of the site of Geocon’s skyscraper, the Grand Central Towers at Woden.

IF there was a Walkley Award for weasel words Nationals’ leader Michael McCormack would already have his name engraved on one of the prized gongs.

Attempting to drown out predecessor Barnaby Joyce’s noise on decentralisation, the former journalist said: “Whilst there is always more work to do, any initiatives which enhance the government’s strategic policy focus on decentralisation – to not only grow regional communities but also decrease congestion in our cities and improve the quality of life and share economic opportunities more broadly – are always welcome.”

DESPITE the ongoing debacle surrounding Barnaby Joyce’s relocation of the APVMA to Armidale, the decentralisation sword of Damocles continues to hang over some Canberra public servants.

At a recent estimates hearing Nationals Senate leader Nigel Scullion admitted “seven agencies were being considered by cabinet for decentralisation away from Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne”.

The former Deputy PM continues to mock the concept after reports of staff being moved from Sydney to Parramatta suggesting: “You can’t decentralise to the centre. You have to decentralise from the centre”.

IN 2013 Belconnen was proud that a local pizza shop was consistently topping its franchise’s nationwide chain. Florey Domino’s dominated the chain’s 550 outlets nationwide winning its 13th straight annual sales award. At the time Domino’s Florey was knocking out a pie every two minutes. Now Domino’s languishes at the bottom of the just published Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre study.

STILL on nutrition and the University of Canberra is trumpeting the appointment of health and fitness guru Michelle Bridges’ dietitian Lisa Donaldson.

Diagnosed with coeliac disease and other intestinal issues more than a decade ago, Ms Donaldson, who holds a Bachelor of Education degree from UC, returned to the institution to undertake a Master of Nutrition and Dietetics graduating in 2011. Donaldson, who has also worked with Channel 9 nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan, returns as UC’s dietitian in residence.

FORMER Ainslie transgender footballer Hannah Mouncey apparently has made giant steps in handling her “potty mouth”. The athlete who came to prominence after being banned by the AFL from playing in the AFLW recently appeared on Fox Footy’s “Open Mike” with the doyen of Melbourne AFL scribes Mike Sheahan. Mouncey tweeted that she had “recorded Open Mike without swearing… seriously, it’s a big f&*%@$g achievement”.


ACT Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris’ probe into systemic bullying at Calvary Hospital will be seen by many as too little too late.

During my time on Canberra talk-back radio, bullying across the entire ACT health sector was the single most dominating issue.

Just two of the scores of horrendous bullying and intimidation stories shared with me include a former ACT Health staffer who won her Comcare claim but “would not advise anyone to go through the process” as the compensation fight left her permanently damaged.

And another, who went to the roof of the Canberra Hospital planning to end her life, described the administration as the “most evil and corrupt maintainers of the status quo” she’d ever dealt with.

AN old cliche was being tossed around out Gungahlin way recently. After last winning a game of football in August 2016 it has indeed been a long time between drinks for the Gungahlin Jets AFL club.

With a new coach, Belconnen champion John Love at the helm and a dozen players debuting, the Jetters finally broke through in the opening round of the new season with a 22-point win over the Tuggeranong Hawks. Apparently, singing the club song was slightly awkward but should become more familiar as the season unfolds.

A GUNGAHLIN restaurant is way ahead of the war-on-waste curve. Frankies at Forde is committed to saving an estimated 45,000 disposable coffee cups from landfill annually. Owner Mark Ramsay says apart from an outlet at the ANU, Frankies is the only café-bar of its type in Canberra and one of the very few nationwide to adopt the concept. Ramsay says locals have “overwhelmingly embraced” the “keepcup” concept.

FORMER Liberal Party leader Brendan Nelson has racked up some serious bipartisan credibility as director of the Australian War Memorial, but a recent initiative has dragged him back into the reality of politics.

The former Howard government Defence Minister who also once headed the left-leaning AMA has drawn negative fire after calling for recognition for military personnel involved in the Abbott government’s “stopping the boats” campaign. Nelson is pushing for a dedicated section of the AWM honouring those who took part in the border-protection missions.

ACT Minister for Veterans and Seniors Gordon Ramsay laid a special rainbow wreath at the Stone of Remembrance on Anzac Day. Extending the rainbow roundabout theme established in Braddon after the “Yes” vote, the Barr government partnered with Defence LGBTI information services to honour diversity among our defence forces.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has referenced an incompetent but lovable buffoon from a TV cartoon in urging people to “move with the times” in the nuclear debate. The state Nationals leader and member for Monaro opted for a “not ruling in or out” stance on nuclear reactors for the region after recently attending the Advanced Reactor Summit in Atlanta, Georgia.

Barilaro said nuclear power was “inevitable” and was keen to “debunk some of the myths tied to nuclear” and move on from the “fears after events like Chernobyl and Fukushima”. The MP flippantly added: “This isn’t Homer Simpson driving the power plant.”

APPARENTLY, we have our very own right royal doppelganger. And a very contemporary one at that. Since the daily paper spotted a Meghan Marklelook-alike waiting tables at a Belconnen café, the world of showbiz has been calling the 28-year-old.

Stephanie Murray says she’s often been compared with the soon-to-be-royal but the recent exposure has been intense. Requests from most Australian TV networks and a call from a European talent agency with offers of commercial endorsements are flowing in.

AND lingering in the celebrity spotlight for a little longer, there is a young Canberra man who is deemed a dead ringer for the Oscar-winning actor Ryan Gosling. Sadly though for this local lad La La Land is not knocking down his door with the same offers reportedly swamping Meghan Markle’s Canberra “twin” Stephanie.