IAN MEIKLE takes the “Seven Days” reins to share a new week in a new year for Canberra.
I LOVE Mondays in January as each successive week brings another reassuring wave of people to work (and the roads) from the summer holidays.
Alas, it was tense holidaying in the shadow of terrible news from the burning south coast, the pressing danger of bushfire and the abominable endless weeks of “hazardous” smoke.
It’s hard to believe with any confidence that we are a city refreshed and ready for the year ahead.
Mercifully, we had “Megxit” and the dummy spitting, showboating Sussexes playing across our screens like cathartic comedy relief from our grinding awfulness. Republican Robert Macklin spares no Royal sentiment in his column on Page XX.
The week didn’t start so well for Scott from Marketing, either – waking as he did to two metaphorical black eyes on Monday, after his Quiet Australians made it loud and clear through a couple of national opinion polls that they found his leadership wanting in this time of unrecorded natural disaster.
The Guardian Essential poll says voters increasingly see PM Morrison as arrogant and out of touch. So much so, Labor’s Anthony Albanese is the preferred prime minister for the first time since he became leader following the May election.
Locally, Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury looked virtuous by comparison, announcing that new suburbs in the ACT no longer require a mandatory gas connection that, he says, will allow them the opportunity to achieve zero emissions and to have cheaper utility bills.
“The fact is, natural gas is a polluting fossil fuel and we must eventually phase it out in favour of clean energy,” he says, which is oddly ironic in that natural gas was introduced to Australian homes and cars as “clean energy” not so many years ago. But one can’t argue with the price: unthinkably, electricity is now cheaper than gas.
But it’s not the cost of electricity this time that’s cruelled the daily bursts from the iconic and recently refurbished Captain Cook Memorial Jet on Lake Burley Griffin.
The NCA has suspended operation until further notice because of water levels saying weather conditions and low inflows have affected lake levels, potentially risking damage to the pumps that operate the jet.
Happily, the ACT does have enough water to help the thirsty 2000 souls in Braidwood for six months after the town’s supply dried up due to low inflows and bushfires in the region.
The Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council requested help and we said sure, but the ACT government seemed at pains to reassure that the water support will have no significant impact on the territory’s long-term water security and, over the six months, will amount to less than one day of supply for Canberra and Queanbeyan.
Meantime, Australia Day looms and while there will be no fireworks in Canberra or Queanbeyan in deference to the bushfires, our friends over the border have imaginatively appointed former 2CC breakfast announcer Tim Shaw as their Australia Day ambassador. The irrepressible Tim will be lighting up awards ceremonies at Captains Flat and Queanbeyan.
Speaking of jobs, come January 26, the very experienced Canberra Business Chamber CEO Dr Michael Schaper will be elsewhere.
After a particularly successful first year in the job, he is decamping in an ACT election year for an eyebrow-raising six months as research fellow at the Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore, looking at the future of business organisations in the region. Six months leave after 12 months work sounds like a benefit few of his private-sector members could dream of.
In an explanatory press release Michael writes: “We have a busy year ahead of us. Bushfire recovery, a territory election, and many other issues will all have an impact on local businesses”. That lot will fall to seat-warmer Graham Catt.
Elsewhere, the real estate site Domain.com is reporting the sale of Guardian Australia editor Lenore Taylor and reporter/novelist Paul Daley’s four-bedroom property at 19 Beagle Street, Red Hill, for $1.9 million. The couple work in Sydney these days.
Home to the former secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Sir Nick Parkinson, the property was built in 1962. Domain says it was sold in 1992 for $385,000 and again in 1997 for $330,000. At the time, Paul Keating was one of its neighbours.
And finally, this howler I spotted at the bakery in Hay: