When the cranky cockies tumbled into town

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Protesting farmers at Parliament House… the “quiet” Australians rallied among scores of creative and sometimes crude placards. Photo: Mike Welsh
“Seven Days” columnist MIKE WELSH finds himself in the middle of the farmers’ protest at Parliament House.
THREE thousand frustrated Southern Riverina farmers poured into the capital demanding the Federal parliament scrap the controversial Murray Darling Basin Plan. 
Mike Welsh.

Under the bold “Can the Plan” banner they came, the young, the old, with their dogs, and in their trucks, Toyotas and even tractors. 

In weather-beaten Akubras and lived-in Driza-bones, the normally reserved or “quiet” Australians rallied enthusiastically among scores of creative and sometimes crude placards on the lawns of Parliament House in one of the biggest such protest events this year.

As a convoy of more than 200 horn-blasting trucks circled, speakers and entertainers warmed up the crowd before it marched on the forecourt. Organisers pleaded with the protesters to “behave”, but when a small group broke away and penetrated a line of almost 20 AFP officers, the entire group marched to the front doors. 

With extra reinforcements protecting the building the mob chanted slogans aimed squarely at Water Minister David Littleproud and local MP, the member for Farrer, Sussan Ley.

Among the first pollies brave enough to venture down was Bob Katter, but he was quickly elbowed out of the spotlight by One Nation senators Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts. The One Nation pair swooped on the disenchanted cohort like seagulls on hot chips, keen to exploit angry farmers and regional small business operators, now clearly in the market for another political vehicle on which to hitch their considerable political clout.

Police play with their speed guns on Belconnen Way. Photo: Mike Welsh

THE bowels of motorists travelling along Belconnen Way near Bunnings on Wednesday were abruptly loosened by the disconcerting sight of eight police officers on the side of the road pointing speed guns directly at them. No, it wasn’t a heavy handed pre-Christmas, revenue-raising campaign, but what appeared to be a training exercise involving young officers familiarising themselves with the instruments in time for the holiday blitz.

A battered bus shelter on Commonwealth Avenue. Photo: Mike Welsh

CANBERRA’S bus shelters continue to be senselessly trashed. The shelters on each side of Commonwealth Ave near Albert Hall have been disabled for weeks, with tape wrapped around shattered glass panels. In July police speculated that around 50 bus shelters had been targeted by slingshots. The glass panels can cost up to $1000 apiece to replace.

THE local breakfast radio fare continues to change, with ABC cornflakes man Dan Bourchier on the move. Bourchier is to be replaced in 2020 by Lish Fejer who appears to be taking an intellectual approach, promising “to dive into that hive mind and have some fun” with the “switched on, generous, connected and considered” ABC Canberra audience.

Yarralumla trees festooned with Christmas bows.

THE Yarralumla Residents Association has returned tradition to the area by urging locals to become involved with decking local trees with bright red bows. No tree, no prob. Decorated letterboxes are also acceptable. The association can provide the fabric and instructions for $5.

AFTER more than two decades in the secondhand book caper, former Canberra public servant Ron Robertson is trading the romance of bricks and mortar and ceiling high piles of dusty tomes, for the detached world of the web. Sadly, Ron’s Hawker bookshop must close on December 31. Hawker’s unofficial mayor says the old model of book selling is no longer viable and he will now do business exclusively on his laptop.

IT’S comforting to know I’m not the only pedant in the capital. Posted on twitter: “The Apostrophe Society closing its doors has inspired me to start a foundation for Not Referring to Federal Parliament as Canberra (still working on a name). Its basic goal will be to stop people using ‘Canberra’ when they mean Federal parliament”.

AND the final reference to the bubble this year. As the pollies left town for the summer break, unmolested by a threat to block their exit by activist group Extinction Rebellion, two minor and trivial questions remain unanswered. Did Malcolm Turnbull’s bonk ban transfer to the ScoMo regime and if so has it remained intact? Asking for a friend.

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

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