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Canberra Today 20°/23° | Tuesday, December 7, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Of chairs and bears… and one happy ‘family’ 

From left, Warwick Smith AO, Kerry Stokes AC, Ryan Stokes AO…and the inbred ted.

It’s not every day a chap is given a two-headed teddy bear from another chap. IAN MEIKLE remembers it well. It’s another “Seven Days”. 

WARWICK Smith is no ordinary man. He once gave me a teddy bear. This was no ordinary bear. It had two heads. 

Ian Meikle.

It was a lovely bit of self deprecation from the then Tasmanian member for Bass. 

Comedian Billy Connolly once observed of Tasmania that that’s where they “roll their own”. 

And I was reminded fondly of Warwick’s inbred bear when he was, quite appropriately, appointed by the Federal government to chair the National Museum for the next three years. 

But first, a little more in praise of the far-from-ordinary Mr Smith, 67, who was a Liberal MHR 1984-1993 and 1996-1998 during which times he was variously the Minister for Sport, Territories and Local Government and Minister for Family Services during the Howard years.

Even then, he was no stranger to Canberra, having studied law, history and political science at the ANU. 

Since politics, he’s been an executive director of Macquarie Bank, chairman of the Australian Sports Commission, chairman of ANZ NSW, and is chairman at Ord Minnett and a director of Estia Health Limited. 

Then there’s China, as chairman of the Australia-China Council he’s focused on building closer economic relations – an effort that has earned him, in some circles, the title of “Australia’s Mr China”.

Along this stellar career, a grateful nation has gonged him an Officer in  the Order of Australia.

Warwick’s Smith’s two-headed Tasmanian ted.

Since 2006, Warwick Smith AO has been chairman of the advisory board of Australian Capital Equity (ACE), an investment company owned by media mogul (and much admired former boss of mine) Kerry Stokes.

That would be Kerry Stokes AC who, in the late ’90s, chaired the National Gallery of Australia and who, since 2015, has been chairing the Australian War Memorial Council. 

His dauphin Ryan Stokes AO is CEO of Seven Group Holdings and CEO of ACE, and 2012-2018 chaired the National Library for two terms. In 2018 he followed his old man into the chairman’s seat at the National Gallery’s Council. In July, he got a second three-year term. 

This all reminded me of the long-forgotten inbred ted and I couldn’t help but wonder – with no aspersions as to their individual competencies – at the number of members from the same corporate “family” managing so much of the national capital’s cultural capital. Time for a bear with three heads, Warwick? 

AND to keep the media theme among the cultural institutions, Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited was not to be outdone with its chair of the Melbourne-based Herald and Weekly Times Penny Fowler starting as chair of the National Portrait Gallery in January. 

THE eagle eye of retired Canberra lawyer Ric Lucas spotted that the French Navy La Fayette class frigates use four diesel engines designed by SEMT Pielstick that, he says, have been developed and greatly improved in France over the last 60 years, and in their naval and submarine forms are amongst the most powerful diesel engines in the world.

Here’s the rub: “The engines have been licensed to two large Chinese manufacturers, which supply Pielstick diesel engines to the Chinese Navy,” he says.  

“Following the 1989 Beijing massacre, the EU announced an embargo on sales of military equipment to China, and unsurprisingly that embargo has never been lifted. But we have just now learned there are loopholes, and high-powered diesel engines suitable for frigates and submarines, and designed in the EU, can be sold to the rapidly expanding Chinese Navy.”

In other words, Ric’s saying the Chinese are using French engines.  

“Australians remember Pig Iron Bob. It seems we have cause to regret Marine Macron,” he shrugs.

All finished… cabling work near Fadden Pines still “not really acceptable”.

MIDWAY this year some cabling work was done near Fadden Pines, along a long strip parallel to Coyne Street that caught the eye of Marion Springer who lives nearby in Gowrie. She spoke to a worker at the time who told her it was being done by Telstra.

She reckons it wasn’t finished properly with five pits along the cabling line posing a safety risk for anyone walking across the affected ground.

“I tried unsuccessfully to contact Telstra to discuss the state of the work,” she writes. “I also contacted Access Canberra, Fix My Street, in June to explain this work. 

“In their response on July 5, I was told my correspondence had been referred to the relevant ACT government business unit and I should expect to be contacted within 10 working days. 

“I heard nothing further, despite contacting them again in August to send some photos.” 

However, by November 5, Marion reports there had been “rough attempts made very recently to fill in around the pits.” Her photo  suggests it’s still “not really acceptable”. 

AS Canberra smarts from being named the worst in the nation when it comes to hospital waiting and treatment times, there’s some better news from across the border.  

Queanbeyan’s little hospital-on-the-hill has been rated by patients as one of the cleanest in NSW with 89 per cent of respondents rating their room or ward as “very clean”.

Yeh, well, we’ll have the cleanest trams; so there, Queanbeyan. 

Ian Meikle is the editor of “CityNews” and can be heard on the “CityNews Sunday Roast” news and interview program, 2CC, 9am-noon.


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Ian Meikle

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