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.




THE closure of a Civic entertainment institution has caught the eye of Australia’s fake news site “The Betoota Advocate”. The site, which promotes itself as “Australia’s oldest newspaper”, responded to the demise – after 15 years – of the Academy Nightclub, with a banner headline: “Turnbull declares a month of mourning in response to Academy closing”.

“The Advocate” revealed that the PM called a special press conference to address the news, which he claimed had “no doubt shaken the capital to its core”.

Turnbull added: “There isn’t one politician here who can honestly say they haven’t been through those doors or peeled their feet off the floor of what is, or rather was, the greatest nightclub in Australia.”

ON New Year’s Day, 1992, four Canberra siblings took an aircraft flight they’ll probably never forget. The story was retold this week after the death of former US First Lady Barbara Bush. President George Bush and Mrs Bush were visiting Sydney and, following a function at Kirribilli House, were required to fly to Canberra to address the Federal parliament. The Bushes kindly invited the children of then PM Paul KeatingKatherine, Alexandra, Caroline and Patrick – to join them on Air Force One for the flight to Canberra.

BOUNCERS may soon be needed at the Tuggeranong dog park after a scathing post on social media forced the site’s moderator to close the comments option. The Facebook post, which attracted more than 320 contributions, many threatening and vitriolic, alleged bullying and intimidation by regular users.

“Dog owners in Tuggeranong, especially at the dog park between 9 and 10, hang your heads in the shameful act [sic] you were involved in… my neighbour came home in tears saying because of one person that thought her dog was savage you all ganged up and kicked her out!”

STILL on doggy dos and don’ts; a north Canberra hairdresser, frustrated that her advertising board was being used as a toilet by local canines, took drastic action. Lyneham Hair Fashions attached a note to the sandwich board requesting humans TO point their pets’ private parts in another direction. Owner Marisa Farrell says since the area became more dog friendly people tether their pets to the sign and she is forced to deal with what they invariably leave behind.

THE universal and dependable icebreaker in social situations is to talk about the weather. Social chatter in Canberra at this time of year is often centred around the unwritten but immutable law which forbids the firing up (regardless of fuel source) of any form of domestic heating until Anzac Day. But as the deadline approached some locals have confessed to a more cavalier approach and have been “enjoying our fires for weeks.”

THE reality of keeping warm during a Canberra winter is a far greater priority for some in our city than adhering to a rigid ritual based around April 25. A high percentage of renters in the capital are being forced to “camp out”. According to a new report published by Better Renting, four out of 10 rental properties have zero energy efficiency ratings (EER). Better Renting director Joel Dignam says renters are “being left to suffer in the worst properties on the market”. He says almost half of renters are living in “glorified tents that do virtually nothing to keep inhabitants safe and comfortable.”

IS the local food industry being impacted by the contemporary craze of Netflix and home-delivered food? That’s the opinion of one local expert following the abrupt closure of Jamie’s in Civic. The restaurant – which has struggled since opening in late 2013 – closed without notice on April 16 leaving 40 stranded. The closure, according to the foodie insider may be due, in part, to basic economics and a lack of motivation. Flopping on the couch, turning on Netflix and ordering in is apparently “less than a quarter of the effort”.


AN “understanding” between Canberra hospitality and service industry workers and Federal politicians may soon be obsolete.

Former Labor senator Sam Dastyari has signed with the KIIS FM Kyle and Jackie O breakfast show promising to “spill the beans” on Canberra politics in a segment called “Gutter Politics”.

For years cabbies, waiters, hairdressers and the odd dry cleaner have respected their clients’ need for discretion. Mixed metaphors aside, in order to stoop to the required levels of Kyle Sandilands and his co-host, Dastyari will need to dish plenty of “dirt” among those “spilled beans”.

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LIBERAL MLA Mark Parton’s scathing assessment of CM Andrew Barr is yet another reason the former radio man should be the party’s leader. The member for Brindabella’s incisive spray in the Assembly zeroed in on Barr’s appalling double standards.

“I can’t believe the hypocrisy from this man who lives by a mantra of inclusion; he doesn’t judge people by their colour, creed, religion, sexuality or gender but he can judge an entire profession because they dare to disagree with his vision,” said Parton.

He highlighted Barr’s “vindictiveness” towards journalists being “so strong that he wishes with all his heart their employer goes belly up so they can become unemployed”.

MEANTIME, Canberra-based political editor for “The Australian” Dennis Shanahan wisely allowed some water from Barr’s “hate gate” to flow under Commonwealth Avenue bridge before soberly suggesting local media does need a shake-up.

The Press Gallery veteran wrote: “The real issue is not about his personal feelings towards journalists or old people but the need for a vigorous, independent and competitive local media in Canberra.

“After all, it is the national capital, and just across the Commonwealth Bridge every media organisation in Australia fights on a daily basis to monitor and condemn any misdemeanour or wrongdoing of the federal government.”

SINCE vacating the breakfast slot at HIT 104.7 Ryan Jon continues to take the world beyond by storm. The announcer’s heart wrenching 2017 Mother’s Day YouTube video on his search for the woman who gave him up for adoption 30 years ago has notched 580 million views. Still to trace his mother, Jon told “The Project’s” Carrie Bickmore his video had unearthed his biological father, an American who had a one-night stand while backpacking through Australia. And Ryan has found two half-brothers.


THE ACT government is among the first jurisdiction to sign-up for the new national redress scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse in institutions. While applauding the proactive approach, Gold Creek art gallery owner and child sexual abuse victim Robert Stephens is challenging the government “to keep the momentum going” by changing the name of William Slim Drive.

Mr Stephens came to Australia in 1952 aged eight as part of the UK government-sponsored Fairbridge Scheme and has accused then Governor-General Sir William Slim of sexual abuse at a Fairbridge farm in NSW. Stephens is a long-time campaigner for the name change.

FROM the Canberra Noticeboard Facebook site comes this touching post: “A huge thank-you to ‘Maureen’, a lovely lady who was walking down our street and found my daughter’s cat dead on our road. Maureen stayed with Luna for 10 minutes until I got home and then later called in with flowers for my daughter! If you are on this site Maureen, thank you again! You are a true angel!!”

SACKED CSIRO technician Jack Hoffman who left Canberra 22 months ago “broken” after a prolonged and traumatic battle with the scientific body over bullying issues, has returned briefly to the capital a new man.

Hoffman gained notoriety via the now defunct “Today Tonight” TV show after being caught buying a Big Mac from Maccas drive-through in Condor, breaching CSIRO’s company car use policy.

The 55-year-old, who spent his first six weeks in Sydney homeless, is now the poster boy of the Metabolic Rehabilitation Program at Camden Hospital in Sydney after dropping 70 kilograms from his 185-centimetre frame to be 198 kilograms.



“Andrew Barr’s half-hearted contrition over his comments only serves to enhance his reputation for political aloofness and arrogance,” writes Seven Days columnist MIKE WELSH


CHIEF Minister Andrew Barr continues a petulant tradition set by his political predecessors with embarrassing, leaked audio of the CM confessing to a communications industry function that “I hate journalists” and “I’m over mainstream media”.

Barr seems hell-bent on eclipsing Jon Stanhope who blackballed my 2CC colleague Mike Jeffreys for a month. Stanhope’s successor Katy Gallagher, on Stanhope’s advice, put me “in the freezer” for an unspecified period in response to some rarely applied scrutiny. Barr’s half-hearted contrition over his comments only serves to enhance his reputation for political aloofness and arrogance.

MEANTIME, Barr – possibly the nation’s least known political leader – has predictably become its most mocked in mainstream media. Former Hawke and Keating governments’ minister, Graham Richardson, commentating on Sky News, offered sage political advice to the autocratic Barr: “When you are in a one-paper-town declaring war on the one paper is not very smart”.

The legendary Labor Yoda, succinctly signed off with: “You’re an idiot, pal.”

INTERNATIONAL hot-air balloon experts have labelled our spectacular as “distinctive”. Assistant event director Les Purfield told the ABC that unlike other ballooning events “people in Canberra can actually get close to the balloons”. Among the 30 balloons from around the world were the American entrants Kermit the Frog and Jewel the hummingbird – one of the biggest balloons to fly in Canberra – attracting plenty of attention.


Owners of “Kermie”, New York twin brothers Todd and Scott Monahan, say the Canberra event is “a unique situation. In New York we could never fly so close to any sort of governmental place – that would be a real taboo”.

SCORES of Canberrans who embraced the Enlighten festival are also slightly “lighter” in the pocket. As with many recent large events in the capital, a lack of parking was again an issue with frustrated motorists tempted to break the law. The most common penalty handed out around King Edward Terrace, Parkes, was $117.

SERIAL Canberra basher Miranda Devine has woven two stories involving Christians and cops to take a slap at the AFP. The conservative newspaper columnist merged the tales of charges being dismissed against three Canberrans arrested outside a local abortion clinic and a van set alight near the Deakin HQ of the Australian Christian Lobby in 2016. Devine tweeted: “This is what constitutes a crime in Canberra – watch the arrest of an elderly Christian man sitting quietly on a public bench opposite an abortion clinic praying discreetly. Yet the same ACT police told media a targeted bombing of the Australian Christian Lobby HQ was a ‘car fire’.”

RECOGNISED as an early adopter of drone technology, Canberra has been chosen for a first in fast-food delivery. Approval has been granted by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority for the first urban drone delivery trial with Project Wing about to lift-off in Bonython. The drones, weighing over five kilograms with a wingspan of a metre, hover 30 metres above a delivery site winching their payload down to the customer. As testing nears, some locals have privacy issues. But CASA’s communications manager Peter Gibson says: “You don’t own the airspace over your property so privacy issues are no different to aircraft flying over.”

SA lawyer Adam Richards and his 14-year-old son Ned Thorn have repeated their walk to Canberra, this year from Sydney, to highlight the plight of refugees on Manus Island and Nauru. Unlike February 2017, when the pair walked from Adelaide, there was a disappointingly small band of supporters to greet them. Richards blames Pauline Hanson for the lack of political action on refugees. “Our politicians are addicted to mistreating people for votes,” he says.


AND before we get swept up in Andrew Barr’s brave new media world, this old-school medium outside BentSpoke’s brewery in Braddon requires neither filter nor media management.


By Mike Welsh


VIRGINIA Haussegger’s favourite day of the year is International Women’s Day. The director of the University of Canberra’s 50/50 by 2030 initiative says her new job affords her space to speak openly on women’s issues.

The former Canberra ABC TV news anchor told an IWD gathering, including former Governor-General Dame Quentin Bryce and former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, that her role at the national broadcaster “became too difficult” as there “was an attitude that you were not to express personal opinions”.

Ms Haussegger said March 8 was “a moment to grab the opportunity to make a bit of noise and acknowledge the progress we’ve made”.

THE courts on which Canberra tennis star Nick Kyrgios polished his early game have fallen into shameful disrepair. Established by professional player Todd Larkham’s family, the Hawker Tennis Centre’s courts are almost overgrown with weeds and strewn with rubbish with dilapidated out buildings covered with graffiti.

But the future of the site is back on the front burner with developers seeking discussions with the Friends of Hawker Village group. The complex is zoned “restricted access recreation” which saw a DA for a child-care centre lodged in 2016 knocked back by the ACT government.

KINGSTON Square was recently overtaken by the excitement and glamour of a film set. A day of shooting for the second series of the Foxtel drama “Secret City” took place at the Otis restaurant in Jardine Street. Filming for the political thriller, which stars Jacki Weaver and Marcus Graham, and features locals hired as extras, continues at several locations across Canberra until March 26.

CANBERRA bred AFLW trailblazer Bec Goddard has called for a blind selection process to eliminate gender bias in the league’s coaching ranks. Only two senior and four assistant coaching roles in the league are held by women.

Goddard, who coached the Adelaide Crows to the inaugural AFLW premiership, says gender should be taken out of the equation.

“I’d love to see a blind process where the name is taken off the CV and you therefore don’t know if the coach is male or female and you can see from their experience, it makes it a merit-based process if they’re good enough to get the job”.


ACT Senator Zed Seselja has finally conceded a small portion of his parliamentary perks. The Assistant Minister for Social Security and Multicultural Affairs is (along with all Canberra based MPs and senators) entitled to claim an allowance of $90 per sitting day “for meals and incidental expenses”.

Seselja will no longer claim the allowance after pocketing almost $13,000 since 2013. The allowance is not claimed by Katy Gallagher, Gai Brodtmann and Andrew Leigh although he has claimed it in the past.

ONE-time NRL bad boy Todd Carney may have another shot at the big time with the North Queensland Cowboys. The deal, yet to be ratified by the NRL integrity unit, would see him at his fourth NRL club. After a well-documented and controversial career the 2010 Dally M winner says: “I think I’ve become a better player, a smarter player. I definitely believe I can handle the NRL.”


MEANTIME, the Raiders have ditched AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” as their run-on theme, returning to the familiar sound of the club’s original song. The Green Machine composer Les Gock from the ‘70s glam-rock pop band Hush will be on hand to blow the Viking horn in round two.

THERE are fears an internal ACT Health investigation into bullying at Calvary Hospital, following the suicide of nurse Andrew Earl in 2017, will be a whitewash. Earl’s friends, who claim bullying contributed to his death, are concerned staff are not being made aware of the inquiry and are using social media to encourage anyone with a story to come forward, posting on Facebook: “The investigation will only make a difference to the bullying culture at Calvary if more people contribute.”


SEVEN DAYS City News March 7

By Mike Welsh

A SHONKY fencing contractor who ripped off scores of locals has been jailed for 18 months in NSW.

In 2012 NSW Fair Trading issued several warnings over dealing with Matthew Geoffrey Rixon, trading under at least five different business names and aliases. Rixon, based at Queanbeyan, would enter into contracts to supply and install fencing and decking but once a deposit was made often failed to complete work or carried out shoddy work.

CANBERRA developer Nick Haridemos has drawn swift public condemnation after posting photos of his big game hunting exploits on social media.

Mr Haridemos has stood down as vice president of the Hellenic Club after the photos, including one of him standing over a dead elephant in Africa, were published. Spokesperson for the Canberra branch of Animal Protectors Alliance,Frankie Seymour, says: “Naturally we are appalled that anyone gets pleasure out of killing sentient animals and disgusted that anyone should then want to boast about it.”


A VILE bullying campaign in the early ’90s threatens to tarnish the stellar career of Canberra-bred comedians the Doug Anthony All Stars. Journalist Candace Sutton has written a piece in the #metoo mode detailing a series of offensive faxes sent to her by founding DAAS member Tim Ferguson in response to a negative review she had written. Ferguson has issued a statement saying “Tim Ferguson, Paul McDermott and their former colleague Richard Fidler, express an unreserved apology to journalist Candace Sutton for behaviour towards her that was both offensive and unprofessional.”

BLACK sashes draped across the “Kambah Sheep” sculpture on Drakeford Drive provide a respectful gesture following the death of Matthew Harding, the artist who created the piece. The Canberra sculptor, whose public art is featured around the world and includes “The Cushion and Wedge” in Garema Place, Civic, has died in Victoria at the age of 53.

JACQUI Lambie may have been unceremoniously punted from Canberra but she’s determined to return. The former independent Tasmanian senator told a capacity crowd at the ANU launch of her new book “Rebel with a Cause”, she is prepared to do whatever it takes to win back her Senate spot. The leader of the JLN was in top form, questioning Tasmanian activist Michael Mansell’s indigenous heritage and calling former PM Tony Abbott “a little bugger” over his stance on same-sex marriage. If a thick hide and a talent for self promotion are what it takes, the former soldier will be back.

THE following night the Copland Lecture Theatre hosted orthopaedic surgeon Dr Munjed Al Muderis who began his training at ANU. The activist and now world leader in his field shared an amazing story of being forced to flee Iraq at the risk of facing a firing squad after refusing orders from Saddam Hussein to mutilate deserters. After arriving in Australia by boat Dr Al Muderis was detained in the Curtin Detention Centre for 10 months. He now divides his time between pioneering revolutionary technology and advocating for refugees.

IN the ’80s rock guru Molly Meldrum spearheaded a cheezy TV commercial to convince kids that wearing a bike helmet was cool. The campaign featured an awkward Meldrum swapping his signature Akubra for a dorky looking stack-hat. Over 30 years on, ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury suggests the “uncoolness” of wearing bike helmets may be the reason more aren’t riding bikes. Rattenbury argues: “If removing the requirements for helmets actually encourages more people to cycle, and the overall health benefits that come from that outweigh the risk of immediate trauma from an accident… it’s a question worth asking”.

DESPITE relentless warnings of the dangers of driving through flood waters some Canberrans were still prepared to try their luck during the one-in-a-100-year flood. Large four-wheel-drive owners, obviously starved of the authentic off-road experience, ploughed through flooded waters dangerously spraying high sheets of water over smaller vehicles wisely opting to give the lakes a wide berth.