Canberra Diary, Tuesday

9.10 am

I awake in a ruinous state after Tom’s long night of beer and rough red and nostalgia collude through the cold dark night with ABC NewsRadio’s Mandela death-watch. I shower with difficulty near chundering, thinking I too will die soon, slipping on soap and cracking my head. I take Gluco Support for my ever-simmering diabetes, and a heart pill. I boil a jug, make green tea with lemon and sigh a good deal. I dress somehow and pack my blue pillow and blog and wait outside the main office and a hellcat looks at me benignly.

My little radio is insisting that Gillard has gravely offended the civilised world by knitting a garment for the royal baby and being photographed doing this in the Weekly. Who does she think she is kidding? Does she think we came down in the last shower? No such outrage attended Abbott’s similar image-softening happy-dad-of-daughters photographs. It’s the Karl Rove Method. Everything she does is unthinkable, how dare she.

9.30 am

The cab comes promptly and I am soon at parliament and Viv signs me in. I lug my tonnage the half mile to Aussies and eat bananas, yoghurt, muesli, latte and mineral water and feel progressively fouller. Windsor greets me beaming ruddily and I snarl at him and he flinches back. Oakeshott, who is reviewing my book, says in his beaming, moony way that he got stuck in February and I curse him eloquently, knowing full well he’s right, of course, that’s where the narrative problem is, it needs another draft, just a little one. I eat and burp and feel worse by the minute. I may predecease Mandela.

10.20 am

Natasha Stott-Despoja is suddenly there, kissing me and sitting down and looking, as always, like a happy early scene from Roman Holiday. Ominously, she is off to meet Andrew Robb, to discuss his depression perhaps. I ask her to do a GetUp! anti-Abbott commercial and, ominously, she won’t. One way or another she is negotiating, now, with the future.

I watch the backroomers queue meekly for coffee and exchange melancholic, defeatist scenarios and begin to detest them. ‘Can’t’ is a concept they imbibe with their mothers’ milk and mumble ever after. Can’t be PM and sit in the Senate. Can’t unfloat the dollar. Can’t let parliament run till November and get a few more runs on the board. Can’t offer free dental care to everyone over seventy-eight, we can’t afford it, mate. Can’t say Howard wanted Mandela hanged, it’s exploiting the death of a great man and a time of world grief.

10.40 am

Peter Garrett comes by and gives me a strong handshake and a firm blue stare and I tell him Howard wanted Mandela hanged. ‘Funny, I was just thinking the same thing,’ he says, genially. ‘I was persuaded into politics because of Howard’s policy on South Africa.’ We agree that Abbott should issue an apology on his former leader’s behalf and say why he, Abbott, as a journalist, never spoke well of Mandela before he was released; or spoke of him at all.

He moves on. Will he forget what we said? Will he miss the historic moment? In the next two days, and never again? Probably.

10.55 am

I move to another table and read the latest Newspoll, the second in two days. This may have been provoked by my recent noisy pleas that they reveal what the average age of their respondents is. It adds in caveat, quote, ‘The data has been weighted to reflect the population distribution.’ I’ll bet it has. I’ll bet it has. Translated, old friend, this means, ‘We cheat; we always cheat; we lie; we always lie; it is what we do; we change the figures; we work for Rupert; pray do not chide us; it is what we do; it is what we do; we must; we need the money; please go away.’

2.10 pm

Spend three hours with Don Dwyr, the omnipresent buoyant politics-buff, a fount of useful glittering knowledge. ‘Why is more not known of Julie Bishop’s private life?’ he asks. He tells me of her intricate Western Australian career, defending as a lawyer the asbestos villains and her leg-up, if that’s the word I want, into political influence when she was the mistress of Ross Lighfoot, the eminent racist Senator who thought Aborigines ‘the lowest rung on the ladder’, then other relationships in a sexually active, ascending life much like that of Jennie Churchill. He tells me of a new book, Downfall, about the Victorian unions and the Kathy Jackson matter and Craig Thomson, whom it speaks well of, and bits about Shorten. I tell him Shorten has a twin brother, which surprises him. We remark how much we don’t know, usually, of any man or woman till the funeral. At Mick Young’s obsequies were hundreds of his close acquaintance unaware till then that he knew intimately a hundred others. Shorten comes by in a tracksuit, healthy, thin and suddenly handsome, smiling warily, shakes hands and moves on.

We go to the Non-Members’ Dining Room to watch on the big screen Hazel Hawke’s copious, Mozart-heavy, Bob-free, Danny Boy-climaxed memorial service in the Opera House. Peter Beattie, pacing up and down, is on a mobile negotiating something. I tell him he’s ‘the right weight at last’, meaning he’s put on a bit after being too thin. But he looks at me hurt, thinking I’ve called him a former fatty, and avoids my eye thereafter.

Don refuses to switch over to Question Time, and I watch, part moved, part snarky, the various daughters and friends, including Margaret Throsby and Wendy McCarthy and a handsome grandson who has written a poem, speak well of a good woman who, Don informs me, stuck with Bob although divorce was seriously discussed in the five years before he gained the Lodge.

4.50 pm

An hour with Wedderburn, discussing things of which I mostly must not speak. He says Carr’s luck as Premier was to have a good staff, and Chiefs-of-Staff — him, Hawker, Kris Neill — who told him when he shouldn’t do things, who didn’t force him to impersonate someone he wasn’t — a football fan, a gambler on horses, a hater of Shakespeare — and, unlike McTernan, kept their head down. He says too many people, in the unions, in the backrooms, in the bureaucracy, put their hands up, and clutter clear air the leader alone should command. We vow to go to the pictures again soon and he goes back to the office.

6.10 pm

Am at the ATM when the Choirboy — Van Onselen — confronts me smiling. He notes that I have been attacking him lately. I invite him to stop serving the primitive tyranny Cult Murdoch and rejoin the democracy, the civilisation. He says he just thinks Rudd would ‘save more seats’ than Gillard. He doesn’t contemplate the possibility that Rudd, despite scoring 50 percent in a Newspoll, might win. He hasn’t been programmed that way. Like R2D2 he has his encoded responses.

I say Labor, even under Gillard, would win in a landslide. He says how can they. I say because of things to be made known of Abbott soon. He says, what, in the campaign? I say no, any time now, read my blog. They’re in your blog, are they? he asks. Yes, I say…no, look, don’t bother.

And I tell him. The knocked-up girl. The wedding day. The phone call, breaking it off, a week before the ceremony, ruining her life, the phone call made by his mother. The sending off of the baby to Perth. And how she died, and how he treated her when she was dying. It’s like how Hewson was bound to win, I say, till he was revealed to have left his wife and family three days before Christmas. ‘There’s no good answer to that,’ I say. ‘There’s no good answer to that.’

I turn and go. He watches me go. He is thinking hard.

Well, he knows now, I decide, and there’s no way, no way in the world, it’ll be used on his programme. That’s how corrupt he is. The Choirboy.

7.15 pm

I go back to the Dining Room and watch the SBS news with a security guard, and we talk. He remembers the day Hawke felled Hayden and how Hayden, who he was with at the time, didn’t see it coming. ‘It’s happening, Bill,’ he said, ‘they’re coming after you.’ But he wouldn’t believe it. He’s been in this building and its predecessor for thirty-one years. Like all such men he’s a Labor supporter. I tell him how much Windsor likes Gillard, and thinks her a straight-shooter. He says he’s heard that too.

Andrew Wilkie is queueing for a roast. I campaigned for him against Howard in 2004, when he was a whistleblower, and a Green. For some reason I don’t feel like talking to him. My great flaw I think is shyness.

9.40 pm

I get a cab to the Kingo and eat corn beef and mash and sauerkraut. A State of Origin is on but no-one I recognise is in the pool room or the bars. I walk with my tonnage to Malvolio Towers through thin rain, brew a hot water bottle, read Clive James on Larkin, and sleep.

Leave a comment ?


  1. “weighted” - that’s the issue; all polls need to be extensively finagled to accurately reflect the reality; it is not just a matter of counting responses and subtracting one party’s from the other’s to see who is ahead - is is a sophisticated mathematical and historical equation

    Apart from the pollster’s bias, if one age group of the population is far less represented than in previous years (young mobile-only users maybe) the calculations can go awry

  2. If you think poll data is “massaged”, you should see what they do to climate data. The data which ends up in the models bears very little resemblance to the raw data. Yet the Luvvies seem all too happy to store their ‘faith’ in the climate science .

    • thousands of scientists all over the world have been studying global warming for many decades, with all their conclusions and data published and checked by others.

      Scientists make their reputations above all by picking other scientists’ work to pieces;

      the prize in fame (and cash from the oil companies) for any scientist who can pick apart the thousands of publications of the massive majority of climate science would be immense

      the comparison to a handful of private polling companies is evidence of complete ignorance of how science works

      In fact, the agreed majority view is always conservative in a developing science field, and the best minds in climate science say that things are getting far worse far faster than the consensus of the big organisations

    • “you should see what they do to climate data”

      What exactly have you seen? What utter rubbish. You are a liar!

      • My sister in law is a climate scientist who is a member of the international climate sciece panel that won the Nobel Prize a few years ago along with Al Gore. She does not massage data.

        What is the phone number and name of your lawyer so I can advise her. She may want to sue for this defamation.

    • Santo, there you go again with denialist views again, I seen your, frankly stupid, ideas on ABC Drum over and over again on climate change, you should know better than to come here with your “Luvvies” talk…

  3. Indeed, Einstein faced criticism :

    “A collection of various criticisms can be found in the book “Hundert Autoren gegen Einstein” (A Hundred authors against Einstein), published in 1931. It contains very short texts from 28 authors, and excerpts from the publications of another 19 authors. The rest consists of a list that also includes people who only for some time were opposed to relativity. Besides philosophic objections (mostly based on Kantianism), also some alleged elementary failures of the theory were included, however, as some commented, those failures were due to the authors’ misunderstanding of relativity. For example, Hans Reichenbach described the book as an “accumulation of naive errors”, and as “unintentionally funny”. Albert von Brunn interpreted the book as a backward step to the 16th and 17th century, and Einstein is reported to have said with irony, that one author alone would have been sufficient to refute him:

    “If I were wrong, then one would have been enough!” —Albert Einstein, commenting on the book 100 Authors Against Einstein.”

    Accepted consensus may be ill-founded; so may criticism.

    It is sadly the case that we won’t know for sure whether or not, or more likely how much the planet is warming, until decades have passed.

    At that stage we will either tear our clothes and hair with anguish, breathe a sigh of relief, or bewail how much effort was put into trying to ameliorate it.

    Personally, I think we should take moderate measures to limit our impact on the planet. (sighs)

  4. Jesus Doug so many paragraphs to tell us you know nothing about it.

    Sorry me ol China the verdict is in.

    Global warming is a reality and as each day passes, with emphasis on days, not weeks, not months, not years, it is getting exponentially worse. In fact, is worse than their early predictions.


    • I didn’t say that! I would prefer better evidence, and I will lay odds that any reasonable climate scientist would agree with me on that.

      Best evidence is that there is warming, but also that the process has been ongoing since the Little Ice Age of the 1400-1850 period.

      Statistics can be used to show almost any story you care to construct; the polls are proof of that.

      I want the world to take action now to reduce our impact on the planet.

  5. when the sun rises in the west tomorrow, phill will be caught unawares; DQ, who has factored in that possibility, will then wear a very smug smile.

  6. Jesus Doug so many paragraphs to tell us you know nothing about it.

    Sorry me ol China the verdict is in.

    Global warming is a reality and as each day passes, with emphasis on days, not weeks, not months, not years, it is getting exponentially worse. In fact, it is worse than their early predictions.

    The only debate now, is what the world is going to do about it. I am chuffed to bits, doubting Thomas’s and people in out right denial will have no say about a cure.

    Soon even the Abbotts of the world will be on board. When some fucker is taking a leak on you, it doesn’t take toooo long to work out it isn’t raining.

  7. I was/am considering betting Labor victory. If I bet enough I could pay off the morgage.
    Good news
    Labor is now 7:1 to win. It was 8:1 a few weeks ago
    the betting for a magority for the libs in the senate is 9:1.
    The betting seems to be slowly moving in the right direction for labor, and it is hence getting harder for me to pay off the house in the unlikely event I bet on it.

    IMHO there will be no challenge, or if there is it will not be successful.

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