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Trapped in a media storm sparked by an AFP raid on her Canberra home, News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst received succour from an unexpected quarter, writes Seven Days columnist MIKE WELSH.

TRAPPED in an international media storm sparked by an AFP raid on her Canberra home to smoke out a whistleblower, News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst received succour from an unexpected quarter. Among scores of supportive messages on social media, a tweet from the press gallery writer’s grade-six teacher Paul Flanagan: “You are loyal, strong, clever, one of the loveliest girls I ever taught” .

Mike Welsh
Mike Welsh.

The raid triggered condemnation and fear, particularly in the Canberra Bubble, of what may come. “First They Came”, the 1946 prose of the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) is instructive. It is about the cowardice of German intellectuals and certain clergy (including himself) following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent incremental purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

MEANTIME, my diplomatic deepthroat (retired) who has signed the Official Secrets Act, cryptically explained the old-school method of whistle blowing. Apparently, in the days between carrier pigeon and electronic messaging, the approach was frame your comment as a question, get a junior staffer to ask the question ensuring it contained a least a grain of truth. The resulting rumour spreads like wildfire and eventually the truth gets out.

FORMER Canberra pastor and Brumbies chaplain has begged Rugby Australia to do the right thing and give Israel Folau another chance. Dave McDonald, founder of Canberra’s Crossroads Christian Church, says in an open letter to RA: “You are breaking my heart. I listen to so many who say they’ve had enough. They don’t care anymore. The politics, the ignorance, the mismanagement, the bullying, the elitism – they’ve had enough. And what can I say? They’ve got a point. But I won’t give up. In fact, I see a window of hope”.

McDonald, at the Brumbies from 2003-2017, argues former coach Andy Friend “once surveyed all his players to discover the most influential people in their lives. A significant number of the players put Jesus Christ, or the Lord, or God as number one. I suspect this would have been repeated in many of the teams across Australia, NZ and South Africa.”

A NEW Federal front bench doesn’t necessarily mean a new way of political spinning. Sadly, the person tasked with removing hurdles from the light rail network Stage 2, new Assistant Minister Nola Marino, has opted for the same old spin to avoid making a commitment. Among “statutory safeguards” and “ecological footprints”, the junior minister assures us: “If and when the project progresses it will be the greatest change to the Parliamentary Zone since the construction of New Parliament House.”

FORMER Canberra FM radio breakfast host Ryan Jon has a knack of racking up impressive stats on social media. The man who scored more than 100 million views worldwide in 2017 with a video about searching for his birth mother, is now going the extra K to prove his love for longtime girlfriend Bridget who lives on the other side of Australia. Jon produced a seven-minute video of him “running” the 3400 kilometres separating them to propose at the regional Victorian winery where she works. The video so far has topped 130,000 views.

AT the risk of inflaming the already toxic relationship between Canberra cyclists and motorists, a tip for the arrogant cyclist who cavalierly crossed four lanes of traffic against a red light at one of the inner south’s busiest intersections. The rider may wish to check his GoPro camera for confirmation of his inconsiderate and dangerous behaviour that does nothing to improve safety or harmonious relations in traffic. It was 7.10 Monday morning (June 3) at the intersection of Canberra Avenue and the Monaro Highway at Fyshwick.

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Mike Welsh
Mike Welsh is a serial blogger and former Canberra radio presenter.

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