Pardon the crustacean pun, but becoming the “new” Laurie Oakes may be a sideways career step for the talented Crabb.

THE retirement of the Canberra Press Gallery giant Laurie Oakes has unearthed many of the classic yarns Oakes told over his 50-year career. One though, the Cheryl Kernot/Gareth Evans affair, which Oakes revealed on National Nine news in July 2002, stands out.

Mike Welsh

Oakes has never claimed an exclusive on the story (apparently, everyone knew) but a few hours before his large belt was to gain another notch, my former colleague Mike Jeffreys, and founder Stephen Mayne, became the first to let the cat out of the bag on local radio 2CC. Some things the public does have a right to (Ker)know.

THE “Strewth” column in “The Australian” has provided a form guide on the large field of potential contenders to replace Oakes and it would appear a woman is the best man for the job. Annabel Crabb has emerged as an early favourite. Seven’s political chief Mark Riley and the ABC’s Chris Uhlmann joined Sky News anchors Kieran Gilbert and David Speers on the second line of betting.

Outsiders for the gig include Seven’s senior reporter Chris Reason and former “Australian Women’s Weekly” editor, Helen McCabe. If you like a long shot, 2GB’s Ben Fordham could be the smokie.

STILL on Ms Crabb, her latest TV offering “The House” (ABC, Tuesdays at 8pm) demonstrates the 2013 Silver Logie winner’s (most popular new female talent) unique range.

Seamlessly segueing from breaking bread with polished politicians in their kitchens to taking the nation on a behind-the-scenes tour of Parliament House suggests a seriously trusted performer.

Pardon the crustacean pun, but becoming the “new” Oakes may be a sideways career step for the talented Crabb.


ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja fears Christians and other religious believers could be persecuted for resisting change in the same-sex marriage debate.

In an email to the electorate Seselja, who will be voting no, says: “Now is the time for those of us with shared values to speak up for our beliefs firmly and respectfully in the public debate and to hold to our convictions”.

The senator also predicts a one-sided media campaign citing bias for the “yes” vote in most coverage and commentary to date.

DISCRETION will be key for public servants using social media if they wish to keep their jobs. New guidelines issued by the Australian Public Service Commission warn “anything you say in public or which ends up in public” represents public comment and could breach employment conditions.

Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Nadine Flood says: “The rules don’t strike the right balance between protecting impartiality of the public servants and allowing everyday participation in democratic debate.”

STILL on social media and cordial relations between two Canberra AFL clubs were threatened after a prank, involving the burning of the guernsey of one club by a player from the other, was filmed and posted on social media.

IT was standing room only at Wednesday’s “Politics in the Pub” at the Civic Pub in Braddon. Labor senator Sam Dastyari casually plonked on a barstool and, with a few beers on board, shared entertaining political insights including former Labor leader Kevin Rudd’s multiple personalities.

The pre-eminent practitioner of the pub test was in hipster territory flogging his new book “One Halal of a Story”. Due to a large turn out many, including Reclaim Australia supporters who threatened to disrupt the event, were locked out. To the troublemakers, Dastyari cleverly twisted the highly offensive, far-right bumper sticker telling them to eff off, we’re full.

ON the other hand, I recently failed a pub test. Propping up the bar at a suburban Melbourne hotel before the Carlton/Essendon game on August 5 I was randomly approached by a crew from Channel 7’s new footy show “The Front Bar” seeking my thoughts for its “Pub Test” segment. Sadly, my astute and highly entertaining contribution to the AFL TV footy show war remains on the cutting room floor.


Mike Welsh

It was a black, dirty and sodden Monday July evening in Canberra, and I was hopelessly lost on the grounds of the Australian National University. The mood was foreboding. It was the night before the prestigious institution had to digest a bitter bullet and share (along with many other tertiary bodies around the country) shocking statistics published from a ground breaking study into sexual assault and harassment on university campuses.

As I pulled into a random car park to get my bearings I copped a horn blast from a ute driving dickhead (for all I knew he could have been an adjunct Professor of Anthropology doing some overtime). Clearly, Professor Dickhead knew his way around the vast campus which qualifies for its own postcode. But there was absolutely no point in asking him for directions, or anyone else for that matter, because I didn’t know where I was going. I hadn’t yet been told.

Ten days prior I’d witnessed an irate young woman rip an advertising flyer from a post at a local market. Impulsively, I picked up the pieces and instantly understood her motivation. The lacerated poster promoted the screening of Vaxxing: From Cover up to Catastrophe a 90 minute documentary on the dangers of child MMR vaccinations.

I made contact with the media person for the Australian Vaccination Sceptics Network (AVN), who were hosting the producers of the doco, identifying myself as a journalist writing for several publications. I was duly accredited to attend the “secret” screening scheduled for Monday, July 31.

I was no more than vaguely aware of the anti-vax issue, but I was already completely indoctrinated to reject everything it stood for. I was keen to venture further under the assumption I was sufficiently vaccinated against any brainwashing. I would not drink the kool-aid. I hoped to record some “action” outside the venue but it seems Canberrans are more civilised than the rest of the country.

To thwart objectors who’ve dogged the Australian doco’s tour, I was told I’d be advised of a venue three hours prior to a 6.30pm start. Half three came and went, so I emailed and was told to go to a specified ANU car park and wait until 6.10 when I would be advised of my next and hopefully final step.


I was keen to venture further under the assumption I was sufficiently vaccinated against any brainwashing. I would not drink the kool-aid.


As the rain began to fall more heavily I sprinted across the half full car park towards a group of people huddled at the front of the recently renovated John Curtin School of Medical Research. Using the school’s light they were peering into their phones mumbling something about “it must be this way”. Bingo. I had serendipitously driven into the right car park and now had happened upon the right group heading in the right, depending on your viewpoint, direction. We arrive and run a gauntlet of happy welcoming people similar to the entrance of some Christian churches.

The tone of the event was extremist both in the film and during the Q and A afterwards.

About 170 people – comprising mostly young couples and a few refugees from anti-Vietnam war and anti-fluoride movements – filled the lecture theatre. This latter mob apparently doesn’t get old, it just moves from movement to movement as long as the movement allows them to be anti-something. Think early One Nation supporters but with a university experience.

Several people with rock band roadie type tour jackets with “VAXXED” sprayed across the back, scurry around the front of the room and then without any introduction Vaxxed; From Cover up to Catastrophe fires up on the small screen.

A film where the director/writer (a discredited doctor) and the producer (a scientist with an autistic child) dominate is always going to struggle for credibility. Film critic Joe Leydon wrote in Variety in 2016: “…in the end, however, Vaxxedcomes across as a grab-bag of charts and theories and anecdotal evidence that would never pass muster by the editors of any major scientific journal (like, say the Lancet), and too often resembles the kind of one-sided, paranoia-stoking ‘agitpop’ that political activists construct to sanctify true believers and assault infidels”.

During the screening, the aforementioned roadies crawled up and down the aisles, like giggling children, armed with selfie sticks gathering for what we learnt later was a live streaming of the event on social media.


The following day the ANU, still dealing with the toxic fall-out from the University sexual assault/harassment survey – was forced to hose down a claim that by renting the lecture theatre to the AVN, it was endorsing the highly questionable and contested “scientific” claims made and debunked by the anti-vaxxers.


The following day the ANU, still dealing with the toxic fall-out from the University sexual assault/harassment survey – was forced to hose down a claim that by renting the lecture theatre to the AVN, it was endorsing the highly questionable and contested “scientific” claims made and debunked by the anti-vaxxers.

The group which had not exactly enjoyed four star “down under hospitality” in securing venues on its Australian tour, posted on Facebook that it had in fact “infiltrated” the ANU, gloating “can’t think of a better place to air a scientific controversy than an institution of higher learning such as the ANU”.

Rather than being disheartened by the hostile reception Vaxxed copped, with two more cinematic projects in the pipeline, the Australia tour is just the “shot in the arm” these people need to continue their crusade.

As a doco, Vaxxed is pinch and punch. It’s a good doco, as far as docos go, and packs a punch but must be taken with a pinch of salt.

Think a Michael Moore documentary without Michael Moore, but blatantly apeing his flag wavin’, cotton-pickin’, cherry-picking method of making a point.

My visit to the ANU was indeed educational. I now know my way around the campus a bit better.

Mike Welsh

How Steve Doszpot saved Les Murray’s Career

By Mike Welsh in the CITY NEWS AUG 7


AM more suspicious than ever of results obtained from automated phone polling after being one of 717 Canberrans to receive an unsolicited dinner-time call seeking our opinions on pokies.

Reachtel’s recorded voiceover man offered me three options to a series of slightly confusing questions on the impact of poker machines.

I get these calls often, possibly because I often “agree” to participate. I sometimes identify as an unemployed, single, lapsed-Catholic female aged between 30 to 40 (with my own teeth) who never plays pokies.

THE survey also sampled the current state-of-play of the local political scene. Apparently Labor has fallen to 36.4 per cent (down from 38.4 per cent at the last election), while the Liberal party is up 2 per cent (38.8 per cent) since October. But with more than three years until the next ACT election, CM Andrew Barr won’t be losing any sleep over the results.

HOWEVER, ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury may be missing serious shuteye after the debate on the local greyhound ban became personal and petty.

The MLA was “mauled” by talkback top-dog Ray Hadley after making damaging allegations against local trainers. On 2CC Hadley described Rattenbury as “a grubby little man” resembling an “unmade bed”. Though it won’t be childish insults that will bring Rattenbury the most grief, it will be the surgical precision with which the civilised and professional 2CC drive announcer, Chris Coleman, is prosecuting the case. 


THE Canberra Libs appear to be in semi-election mode, flogging a law-and-order issue. Shadow A-G Jeremy Hanson is pressing the government to give police wider scope to deal with a seemingly greater threat to public safety, posed by warring outlaw motorcycle gangs in Canberra’s south.
Hanson says: “It’s clear from the words of the chief police officer that community safety is at risk and it’s only a matter of time before somebody is killed or seriously injured”.

THE anti-vaccination movement surreptitiously slid into Canberra and screened the controversial movie “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe”. At the invitation of the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network (AVN), makers of the doco finally screened the 90-minute film for about 180 locals at an ANU lecture theatre, but not before some cloak-and-dagger shenanigans.

Fearful of disruptive protests, those attending were instructed to park at a designated spot (at ANU) and wait for a text 20 minutes before start time, for details of the venue. The film is a pinch and a punch. As a doco it packs a punch, but must be taken with a pinch of salt. Think a Michael Moore film without Michael Moore!

FOLLOWING the screening the ANU says it was unaware of the controversial claims (vaccination causes autism) made in the documentary. A spokesperson says the screening was a private booking and “was not in any way endorsed by the university”. Controversy has dogged the movie, including being cut from the line up at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York by one of the festival’s owners, actor Robert De Niro. Tasha David, president of the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network, says “claims that the AVN or ‘Vaxxed’ implied the ANU endorsed the film are false”.

LIBERAL MLA Steve Doszpot can rightly claim to have saved the early career of SBS’s Mr Football Les Murray, who died recently at the age of 71. In his 2006 memoir, “By The Balls”, Murray tells how after a short stint at Channel 10 ended abruptly, his career was immediately rescued “out of the blue” by a call from Doszpot, “then a mover and shaker of Canberra City, alerted me to a vacancy at CTC 7 in Canberra. I got the gig. It kept me alive and warm as a football commentator. I had no visible television prospects”. Doszpot, who played with Murray and the legendary Johnny Warren at Sydney club St George Budapest, also co-commentated NSL games with the man who would become synonymous with the world game the length and breadth of his adopted land.