Barr reshuffles in the hope of coming up trumps

“The really big news for a community swept up in the travel cult was that from September, Singapore Airlines will fly Canberra to Singapore and Wellington four times a week,” writes Seven Days columnist ROBERT […]

GST-UP

“The really big news for a community swept up in the travel cult was that from September, Singapore Airlines will fly Canberra to Singapore and Wellington four times a week.”

SO, this is what the start of an election year looks like.

First, Chief Minister Andrew Barr reshuffles the ministerial deck, dropping a faded queen and replacing her with a pair of trumps (or so he hopes).

He didn’t have much choice. Joy Burch had passed her use-by date; but Aboriginal Chris Bourke, a former discard, and Meegan Fitzharris, a bright, young Kiwi, were the only available replacements. Nevertheless, they should at least give his ministry a much needed fresh look.

Robert Macklin

Robert Macklin.

Next, he attempts to finesse the Opposition’s attacks on the Gungahlin tram by rebranding its Northbourne Avenue route as a glamorous “Gateway” to the capital through a series of “Urban Villages”. They will be “places to live, work and play,” he said, “with new employers, new retail, new cafes, new services and new urban parks’. Sounds like a few shopping centres with blocks of flats and playgrounds – but with a description worthy of Utopia.

However, the really big news for a community swept up in the travel cult was that from September, Singapore Airlines will fly Canberra to Singapore and Wellington four times a week. And while the airline has taken a purely business decision, Barr has certainly played an important role in developing relations with our Asian neighbours.

THE Feds, too, are off to the polls this year, so PM Malcolm Turnbull was quickly out of the blocks with a visit to our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan where the former Oruzgan province is being taken over by a resurgent Taliban. Then it was on to Washington for a cosy chat with President Obama and perhaps more importantly, his odds-on successor, Hillary Clinton.

Malcolm said that while there should be more “boots on the ground” in Iraq, they would definitely not contain Australian feet. And despite the growls from the direction of Warringah there was an audible sigh of relief across Australia, not least from the Special Forces where a PTSD backlash is producing calls for a taskforce to seek out the sufferers, many of whom are living a rootless existence in their cars… to the anguish and despair of their families.

SPEAKING of the SAS, there are units in Africa who immediately began weighing the odds of a physical attempt to free Dr Ken Elliott and his wife Jocelyn when they were kidnapped by Islamist fanatics in Burkina Faso. Their situation was too terrible to contemplate… and after 40 years’ devoted service to their African community.

THE Turnbulls have become Canberrans as the newly refurbished Lodge took in lodgers for the first time in more than two years. The question is whether they will take any active part in the ACT elections. Probably not, is the consensus round the traps. But either way, the “Turnbull factor” will give Lib Leader Jeremy Hanson and his team more wind in their sails than the “Abbott anchor”.

WHEN the beleaguered former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop finally received her marching orders from PM Tony Abbott, the self-proclaimed billionaire, Clive Palmer, memorably chortled: “Bye, bye, Bronwyn, bye, bye…” After recent financial revelations surrounding his PUP and Queensland Nickel, the good lady would be forgiven for returning the compliment.

I suspect she would not be alone.

robert@robertmacklin.com

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