Canberra Diary, Thursday

7.40 am

A long night of constipation at the end of which I give birth to a column of cement at 5.30. I am asleep by 6 and at 6.20 drilling begins, and the hellcat sisters on jackhammers, or something near jackhammers, make sure I am thereafter awake and frantic, and defending, for some reason, Eddie McGuire on the blog and cursing Adam Goodes.

10.30 am

I pack, and repack, and lose things, and shower, and lose my car-keys, and pack and check out, avoiding verbal violence, and get in the Volvo, become lost on a freeway and seem to be near Yass when I turn back.

I achieve Parliament House at 9.15, go in the main entrance and am found to be carrying a saw-toothed long knife — which has got through the Reps’ entrance twice — zipped up in my bag. It is confiscated, and I am warned not to kill anybody by other means, and Viv signs me in. In the bookshop is no copy of my book, though Costello’s memoir is prominently placed.

I settle in Aussie’s, eat yoghurt with coca cola, confer with Craig Thomson on a secret matter, write lots of lines.

On the television is the Russian News in Russian, with cyrillic subtitles. I eat a banana, and realise I can change the channel, seize the instrument, and do so.

Gillard is in a school, and looking relaxed and warm and radiant. She has just got the ACT to sign up to Gonski, and speaks of her dead father giving his organs to science.

A headline crawling underneath her says Abbott has gone back on the electoral funding deal.

12.10 pm

Soon there is a headline, ‘Abbott’s credibility shredded’, by Mark Kenny in the smh. I read amazed, then offer the following lines on my blog to Glllard, or anyone.

‘There is more and more evidence that the Liberal Party can’t make up its mind. It’s divided on the baby bonus, the pregnancy bonus, Gonski, the fast train, the electoral reforms, Global Warming, the monarchy, the republic, the surplus, the deficit, the national educational standard and the morning-after Pill. They’ve changed their minds on all these things. Who knows on September 14 which half of the schizophrenia you’ll be electing; and how long it’ll last.’

12.40 pm

The mood has palpably changed. Is this the tipping point?

McTernan appears in the coffee queue and I walk, or shamble, with him the half mile to the lift. He is what Tynan called an Imposer, one whose disapproval you fear, and I stammer out my proposed ‘schizophrenia’ speech, walking sideways. He gives it some heed, revolves it, then forgets it, probably; and, emphasising there’s more good news coming, signals the conversation is over and walks on.

3.40 pm

A ructious Question Time with many throwings-out, Shorten warned and Morrison ejected, bizarrely, in mid-question. Swanny’s earnest righteous defence of good policy and good numbers is more convincing today, and more compelling than ever before. Today it seems more true. The faces behind Abbott are dismal. It is to do, perhaps, with his visible yearning for the old brontosauran union-bullied Labor Party Ferguson mourned and their twitchy Papist leader antiphonally wept for. It showed they were following — and saluting — a stranger, a spy, a secret agent, a puffed-up, strutting cuckoo, a sheep in wolf’s clothing, they knew not where.

He had kept from them, it seemed, the deal he had made — and signed — on electoral money (33 cents per annum per voter to the person you voted for, shock horror) and was threatened by his caucus and, creepily, turned around. And here he is, exposed as a welsher, a shirker, a double-dealer, a forger of a signature that blurred on the page as the ink spread, as it was meant to.

And we will win now. The shadow line has been passed. We have achieved, improbably, lift-off.

4.10 pm

I am greeted by Sam Dastiyari, Craig’s betrayer, in the hall, and he smiles at me, and Abbott runs by in his track suit, smaller, head down, diminished, receding down the corridor. Dastiyari asks if he’s allowed to do that. Phillip Coorey says it might be unwise to ask him to stop.

5.50 pm

I go to the office and pack my things; and say to anyone who will listen a variant on the following:

‘To win the war you have to win battles. And Abbott has lost eighteen battles on the trot. He lost Broadband. He lost the very fast train. He lost, or drew, round one of Gonski. He lost round two when O’Farrell signed up to it. He lost gay marriage when Spain, France, Britain, New Zealand adopted it. He lost the morning-after-Pill, again, when it suddenly re-emerged. He lost, or drew, the battle of NDIS. He lost when Hockey said the adjective ‘disabled’ might have to be redefined. He lost when the Vic young Turks proposed to privatise the ABC. He lost when he gave up the Baby Bonus. He lost when he said in his Reply that Gonski was gone., and Pyne said it was a con. He lost when the ACT signed up to it. And he lost when he was rolled on the electoral funding (33 cents a year to someone you love, shock horror) . And he lost when he wept for Ferguson and called Labor a ‘great party’.

And somewhere in there he lost the status of a certain winner.

And he shrank and became diminished, and foolish-looking, and creepy, and not a little mad.

And so it goes.’

7.10 pm

Tom Cameron walks me all the way down to the carpark, talking affectionately. It is good, but I am hoping yo get to Gatsby in 3D in Goulburn and must rush now.I get lost in Canberra and lose ten more minutes.

6.40 pm

What a week. It was the week it all fell down for the Liberals. Turnbull will be moving soon. Gillard has achieved, at long last, after nearly three years, blast-off.

9.50 pm

Gatsby is in 2D and so horrible, and ill-cast, and ill-written, and … Bazzy, I leave after twenty minutes. I walk to the Paragon,’which I seem to be have been eating in since before I was born, and have oysters kilpatrick and vegetarian pizza.

I am greeted warmly by Jim, at the accustomed motel, and he listens gravely when I tell him Abbott’s finished. Who are these people I talk of, he wonders, nodding. Why do I care so much?

He gives me a carton of milk, which I spill all over myself on the way to room 2.

I turn on the television, and am soon asleep.

Leave a comment ?


  1. Interesting day by the sounds of it.

  2. Sorry, Bob, just to clarify - what is it you officially do in Canberra? Is it writing for Bill Shorten? (This isn’t a sledge or anything, I’m just wasn’t sure.)

  3. Bob, have you tried the pitted prunes for that condition ? Two or three and plenty of water with lunch and/or dinner.

  4. Try a generous serving of oatbran.

    Alternatively, a John Howard speech often gave me the runs.

  5. I think there is money to be made in a book of Bob Ellis’ Canberra Culinary Delights, it could be called “Tidbits” interspersed with political anecdotes. It would rival what’s her name’s cooking with politicians show.

    The yoghurt and cola would have probably been more useful prior to the night of constipation.

    This stuff is gold, wherever you stay in Canberra is going to rival the Chelsea Hotel in NYC.

    Funny, funny stuff.

  6. CONSTIPATION:-Movicol….it moves ANYTHING!!

    That said….Abbott is enough to give anyone the shits.

  7. Surely Labor must go to Shorten, to save itself and the country. Gillard is great however, she is not blessed with luck. She needs luck and if it doesn’t show in the next month, Labor can’t go to its doom with eyes wide open.Can they ? Will they ?

  8. Who did you vote for?

  9. That footage of Abbott tonight fronting the press and humbly explaining how he’d seen reason and listened to his colleagues. Get used to it. It is the template for him breaking his every undertaking to voters post a September win.

    • I for one don’t intend to get used to it. We’ve had him adopt every position that isn’t in the kama sutra, and perhaps a few that are, whilst he has been merely the opposition leader!

      I never want to see his gyrations inflicted on the nation.

      And I doubt we ever will.

    • Abbott’s most recent comment is that he won’t be able to “stop the boats” for over a year. What a bullshit artist this bloke is…and they are going to vote him in with a blank cheque. FOOLZ!!

    • He said recently that he would be “dismayed” if they had not stopped by the end of his first term!


      • So, he would slink off and leave the country like he left the church last time he was dismayed?

        • after all, abandoning service of the creator of the universe because you didn’t like the human hierarchy in his organisation, instead of devoting your wretched, worthless human life to glorifying your lord and cleaning up his stables, is a pretty poor precedent

  10. A very pointed letter to the editor in The Australian today:-

    “HISTORIANS will be overwhelmed with choices in naming the Rudd and Gillard governments’ worst, and worst managed, decision but surely cancelling John Howard’s illegal immigration solution must take first prize (“From asylum-seeker to people-smuggler”, 30/5).

    “National security agencies have no hope of conducting checks on those arriving by boats after most have deliberately destroyed their documents. In fact they can’t even track many of those released into the community pending clearance. It will also cost Australia tens of billions of dollars now and into the future for processing and welfare while genuine refugees making proper applications are still waiting in queue”.

    • Anybody can seek asylum.Many don’t carry documents because they are fleeing you drongo.If their enemies can quickly identify them they often kill them on the spot.It is not illegal to seek asylum.You can arrive by boat helicopter or submarine and you are not illegal until you are found to be so.And you have STILL not answered my post about Costellos failings as Treasurer. U honed in on a couple of my points but ignored all of the other TRUE facts I said about Costello and the billions of our dollars he pissed up against the wall.

      • Oh, you again. Don’t you know there are better things in life than to pull you up on your usual exaggerations and nonsense. I didn’t really think this blog would want to have t0o grit their teeth and sit through any further demolition of most of your laughable and repetitive posts.

        Of course if you provided those links, I would possibly stir enough to go over them again. I was sort of interested to see the link to $9 per ton price for iron ore, but assumed that you might have decided against it.

        While I have you though, tell me, do you seriously believe that these no-ID economic refugees in Indonesia REALLY are in fear for their lives prior to boarding the boats? That “If their enemies can quickly identify them they often kill them on the spot” in INDONESIA?

        What about those who start to ‘holiday’ back in these awfully dangerous places full of such enemies? I think I said it once before: “Dream on”

        • M Ryutin you “cherrypicked” my post and will not comment on Costello’s legacy of:-The highest trade deficit ever recorded/the highest taxing biggest spending govt of all time-no wonder Costello had surpluses/ The longest run of successive monthly trade deficits ever recorded/Biggest foreign debt in Australia’s history (number 4 in the world in dollar terms-no wonder Howard put the debt truck in his garage forever!/ The lowest value of the AUS$ (2001)….at one stage it got as low as 47cents…keeping in mind Howard in 1996 campaigned and was critical of Labor’s “low” dollar of 70c!/ 94% of the mining boom tax windfall frittered away in just 2.5 years resulting in the massive structural deficit we now carry/ Interest rates consistently above the OECD average…Costello presided in 15 interest rate rises in a row!/the loss of billions of our dollars lost by Costello on foreign exchange and the selling off of our gold for a paltry $300oz!/ Please name ANY other Treasurer in history who had a $334billion tax windfall land in their lap.What did Swan have…a LOSS of $160billion in revenue!/ What about Howard’s mass sackings of 30,000 workers-they have families too! People with mortgages are $5000 a year better off than they were when your pin-striped suit were lot had their hands on the levers.

          • Talking about ‘cherry picking’. List your links or shut up you fool. At the very least stop repeating your rot after it has been rightly consigned to the ‘fantasy’ category.


            Biggest foreign debt in Australia’s history?
            Link please (and show it is government debt and differentiate between gross and net debt will you?)

            The lowest value of the AUS$ (2001)?

            (Well 911 crash and slump to world economy after NASDIC/dotcom crash and Asian financial crises) and note that (a) bounceback and (b) budget deficit in that year SANDWICHED BETWEEN FOUR SURPLUSES (remember them things called ‘surpluses’ do you? I know, it was a long time ago, long before Rudd, but they were like the Howard/Costello ‘norm’).

            94% of the mining boom tax windfall frittered away in just 2.5 years resulting in the massive structural deficit we now carry/ Interest rates consistently above the OECD average?

            (NO ‘structural deficit even mentioned by Treasury PRIOR to a RETROSPECTIVE re-evaluation years later).

            $334billion tax windfall?

            (When businesses are powering ahead there will always be more tax paid)

            did Swan have…a LOSS of $160billion in revenue!

            (when the business is in strong REVERSE, especially when due to a huge spending problem by government, tax receipts will be lower. The worse they are the lower the returns. Worse still is when an incompetent government - even if advised by an equally incompetent Treasury – continually OVERSTATES REVENUE and then spends it via more debt, thus increasing the overall problem).

            average person with a mortgage is $5000?

            (when the RBA has to sink interest rates even lower than when actually IN the GFC, you know things are bad – and thus the lower mortgage payments. AND what a crock point that was in the first place!!)

            the tax that the govt receives per tonne?

            ( now apart from the 20 BILLION TAX PAID a year in total, you aren’t including royalties are you? Those things that go to the States and not the federal government – which gets its mining ‘taxes’ through company tax?)

            Howard’s mass sackings?

            This took longer unfortunately, due to the multitude of sites covering some or other aspect of employment, especially those dealing with current trends. But the answer is always the same – “Wombat, get real and do some checking yourself for a bloody change!!”.

            (Just look at the RBA web site “Australian Economic Statistics 1949-1950 to 1996-1997” to see that total employment was 8.36 million in 1996 and similar official checks show that in 2000 it was 8.9 million. Going on the ABS issue “6105.0 - Australian Labour Market Statistics, Jul 2006” the total in employment then was 10.114 million (it’s easy to get the RIGHT figures, but basic searches by ordinary people throw up us multiple sources – that IF they are actually looking for themselves!).
            BUT for a better comparison (and accounting for) population increases in a graph, see “Employed Persons and Employment to Population ratio Australia - 1978-2004”:

            and you will notice the 1991 Recession etc and a slight drop of half a percent 1996/7 but constant and steady growth making up four times that loss (and take note of the 2006 figures)).

          • For something which caught my eye, see

  [email protected]/2f762f95845417aeca25706c00834efa/855e6f87080d2e1aca2570ec000c8e5f!

            to know that in 1986, (before “The recession we had to have’ but maybe on the way to the ‘Banana Republic’) to know that there were 348,600 men and 248,100 women unemployed as against 2000 figures of 339,500 and 233,600. Oh, and the unemployment figures in 1986 were 7.8% for men and 8.4% for women.

    • what a ludicrous letter; no selfrespecting newspaper would publish such arrant nonsense; no selfrespecting citizen would wipe their bum with it

      • after all, abandoning service of the creator of the universe because you didn’t like the human hierarchy in his organisation, instead of devoting your wretched, worthless human life to glorifying your lord and cleaning up his stables, is a pretty poor precedent

      • You are simply not of the real world. Is there a full moon out there?

        • sorry for confusing you even more, R, but that last item was meant to be part of a discussion above re Abbs

  11. The Paragon cafe, Goulburn; I strongly recommend this wonderful place to anyone who hasn’t been there, next time you are on the Hume. There has to be a book in the history, past and present, of that place, surely

Leave a Comment

NOTE - You can use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>