Saturday, February 16, 2013

From con job to cock-up – does the federal government realize what it has done? And does it care? It should – trashing Brand Australia internationally is not the role of this or any other government. What the hell were they thinking? And read ‘em and weep – the Townsville Bulletin’s latest readership figures take a spectacular dive.



And on the subject of the Daily Astonisher, what can Townsville learn from Geelong? Plenty, it would seem, although News Ltd hopes not.

Remember comic book hero The Phantom – the Ghost Who Walks - who disguised himself in overcoat, hat and dark glasses to move about the place as plain ol’ Mr Walker? Seems our own councilor Les Messagebank Walker has a new moniker amongst TCC colleagues … The Ghost Who Talks. Messagebank seems determined to talk about anything and everything lately - and pose for pix even if it means missing vital council committee meetings to do so. The Magpie ponders what’s behind the incessant gabfest.

And are we not all in awe of the speed of the world wide web – the jokes across a variety of newsworthy happenings are coming thick and fast – and instantly - and they’re not always tasteful, so they'll fit in very nicely here in this week’s overflowing nest at www.townsvillemagpie.com.au

First, the political rumour du jour – is Peter Costello planning a comeback to federal parliament.  Here’s what Crikey’s Tips and Rumours column says.

How to grab a Swan by the neck?

Back to the future for Costello? We have our doubts about this one, but we have heard a whisper that Peter Costello just might be considering a return to federal Parliament this year. Our source reckons there was a "very private meeting" in Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu's office in early January at which ways of bringing back Costello were canvassed.
Party powerbroker (and non-Costello fan) Michael Kroger declared last year that Costello had approached him asking to find an MP to give up their seat so the former treasurer could run. Perhaps Costello is still keen on a seat? But if so, which one?

Jolly Joe Hockey may lose more than a heap of weight if the rumour turns out to be true.

Time now for a laugh or two before we get to the bits that will induce tears of rage and frustration.

Fast humorous reaction to often unsettling news stories has been around forever. The ‘Pie remembers it was just 20 minutes after the news of the NASA disaster which killed seven astronauts that he heard the first black quip viz

What does NASA stand for?
Need Another Seven Astronauts.

But that was more than three decades ago, long before instant emails, tweets and the like.

Nowadays, the challenge is to decide if targeted readers are distant enough from the happening for the dark humorists to fire off their jabs. So The ‘Pie hopes he’s judged that correctly when he cites the email he received from a pommy chum early this morning.

Roses are red,
Violets are glorious,
Don’t sneak up
On Oscar Pistorius.

And this effort from Magpie mate Conan the Grammarian just a few hours after Pope Benedict pulled his mitre out of the ring.


That was soon followed by this. 




What made he ‘Pie fall into deep contemplation was the fact that Benedict is retiring to a nunnery within the Vatican walls. The ‘Pie envisages many a jolly evening playing spin the bottle, and no end of games of Twisters with the sisters. Just as well he’s got a pacemaker. 

And a pun-rich vein was mined with the revelation that horsemeat had been found in Tesco supermarket burgers in Britain (allowing all sorts of variations on the ones that went around in 1983 when the champion race horse Shergar was kidnapped, never to be found – it was suggested McDonalds were selling a Shergar Burger).

Again, it was Conan who sent in a selection, the best (?) of which are:




Anyone want a burger from Tesco – yay or neigh?
Waitress in Tesco asked if I wanted anything on my burger, so I had five quid each way.
Had a Tesco burger last night – I’ve still got a bit between my teeth.
Smaller versions of Tesco burgers make great horse d’oeuvres …

…. and the literary minded ‘Pie’s  favourite
‘To beef or not to beef, that is equestrian.’

Boom tish indeed, but that dead horse has been flogged enough.

Then there is a different sort of humour in the august halls of justice.

Two and a half years on, The Magpie still misses his mates and daily reporting chore down around the Walker Streets courts. Among the things he misses most are those not infrequent moments of wit and humour which served to relieve the tension but more often the tedium of some proceedings.

District Court Judge Clive Wall, now on the Gold Coast, often displays an impish humour in court , and loves nothing better than a good bit of banter from the bar table. He recently sent The ‘Pie this exchange in a Victorian tribunal which tickled his fancy.

The matter was before Member Buchanan in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last August, when this rally took place.

Member Buchanan: ‘What do you say to that, Mr Armstrong?’
Mr Montgomery: ‘My name is Montgomery, not Armstrong, sir.’
Member Buchanan: ‘Sorry, Mr Montgomery, I must have been thinking about the astronaut Armstrong (Neil) who has just died.’
Mr Montgomery: That’s OK sir, as long as your order doesn’t also strip me of seven Tour de France titles.’

Oh, the drollery of those on $5000 a day.

OK, if you were laughing, you can stop laughing now.

Of all the things this stumble-bum federal government has done, this election campaign stunt about sporting drugs and match fixing is perhaps the most cynically reprehensible. They have intentionally and internationally trashed Brand Australia – and have done so without providing any proof. And two weeks on, there’s been bugger all of substance to justify for this blanket smear. 


This farcical attempt for electoral cred  has also deliberately embroiled people not even remotely concerned with drugs or match fixing, despite the Townsville Bulletin front page screamer 'Cowboys Embroiled ...', which forced the paper to the spent the rest of the week pointing out how wrong they were.

The overseas reaction to that politically driven three ring circus in Canberra and the following non-fallout of solid, indictable information was at first one of disbelief and then resignation; if what has long been considered a world-leading clean-skin Australian sports model was awash in drugs and match-fixing, there was now nowhere to turn for a way forward.

There may well be some major revelations and charges to come, but before publicly naming someone as a murderer, convention seems to have it that you wait until AFTER someone has been bumped off and you've caught the perp before you denounce the crime and the criminal

Three ring circus? Yes, the best of Barnum and Bailey, but with a few vital elements missing. The jugglers were juggling with imaginary balls, the knife-thrower was hurling invisible daggers at his rotating lady target, and the lion tamer was cracking his whip and prodding at invisible lions.

in one of his most eloquent efforts, a disgusted Bentley says it all with a brilliant mini-gallery of pictures.



No matter what comes out of this down the track, this low level political campaign stunt is starting to be seen for being just that. Mud sticks, faith is shaken, and all sporting outcomes will now be met with cynicism by the losing supporters and niggling doubts even by those cheering the victors.

Yes, mud sticks, and if there is any justice in this world, some of this mud will stick around until September, where the perpetrators of this disgraceful exercise in gutter politics will get a bit of their well-deserved own back.

Now to the local scene.

The latest readership figures for the Townsville Bulletin make grim reading, as the community turns further away from our only daily paper.



The Roy Morgan readership figures released two days ago show that the slide is really on in Ogden Street, especially with the flagship Saturday edition in alarming strife, recording a massive 20% readership drop in the year to last December. In that period, the Saturday Bulletin shed 21,000 readers , plummeting from 102,000 to  81,000. Week day average readership was down a troubling 8%, from 70,000 to 65,000.

But readership is based on informed guesses about how many people reach each paper, so even more damaging are the latest audited figures, those that show actual sales - these are the numbers on which advertising rates are based. papers face big penalties if they fibs about this stuff The Bulletin's monday to friday average has fallen in a heap, down from around 26,000 to just over 23,000, (around 12% down) while Saturday is in a nose spin, falling from an already dismal 38,300 to 36,709. In two years, Saturday's has shrunk by about 14%. The printed paper is going backwards, and the digital take-up figures - understandably a closely guarded secret about which many a fib is told - are nowhere near making up the gap. Not even close. 

Now this really is nervous territory, because although pin pricks of criticism like those of The Magpie are batted away as a minor annoyance, these figures go to the heart of North Queensland Newspapers' raison d'etre - money. When the floor opens up and swallows circulation like this, then advertisers can start getting more than a touch miffed at the advertising rates they are paying, which The Magpie understands haven't changed one jot since the paper enjoyed figures of circulation and readership more than 20% of the current dismal numbers.

And sadly, there's  a bucket or two of salt to be rubbed into these statistical wounds. 

The first and most obvious is that while The Astonisher was dropping those numbers, the population of the community in which it circulates rose by more than 6000 potential readers during the year, as the city and environs continued to grow at on of the fastest rates in the entire nation.

And perhaps even more galling, it can’t be said that it is simply indicative of the times and all papers are shedding readers. Well, not the Cairns Post anyway, at least not on Saturday – they’ve actually gone up, from 105,000 readers to 108,000. Weekdays sales are down, but at an average of 68,000, are some 3000 better than the potential Townsville audience.

But darker and more dangerous financial storm clouds could be on the horizon, if events in far off Geelong are noted.

Geelong is perhaps the best regional city to make comparisions with Townsville, both in population and the fact that it is a News Ltd one daily paper town.

But last October, the Geelong Advertiser was rocked to its financial roots when a well-heeled free weekly came on the scene, aimed squarely at the lucrative property market. Half owned by Fairfax, the Geelong Weekly Review is a glossy FREE paper that concentrates on lifestyle rather than news to back it's core property and cars advertising– and its advertising rates have undercut the Advertiser by a significant margin. And the Review has a bigger significantly larger print run.

So much so that the Advertiser, according to Crikey.com, has been forced to halve its advertising rates. And there is a ding-dong court battle looming over a breach of contract matter involving allegations of bribery and illegal inducement by a shell-shocked Advertiser. But News Ltd this time can’t count on being the only cashed-up bully boy in the fight. Fairfax and the other Melbourne based property publisher have tens of millions both at stake and available for a down and dirty fight.

Read a bit about it, and then ponder the obvious question: if it can happen in Geelong, could it not here in Townsville and up in Cairns? 

The technology revolution has changed the game forever, a fact that News Ltd has been notoriously and somewhat arrogantly unable or unwilling to fully recognize. When some of the financial enablers of such an start-up enterprise like Richard Ferry, Lozza Lancini or Tony Ireland latch on to the idea that a more reasonably priced advertising vehicle with immense potential for profit under local control (perhaps their own control) is within reach, there will be some serious buttock-clenching and heavy soul searching down in Ogden Street - although seeking a soul within News Ltd or the Bulletin may be an illusory exercise.

Speaking of illusory exercises, what’s with Messagebank Walker?


It is a scientific fact that water seeks its own level, so perhaps that’s why this political drip is suddenly talking gibberish about water slides.  Incessantly.

Here’s a little history behind Les’s almost incoherent babble about water slides and making use of the three very expensive slides that have been in council storage for more than five years.

The slides were bought by the Mooney regime against all expert advice, with the plan being to put them down at the Rockpool on the Strand. But that was a non-starter even for Tony I’ll  Do It My Bloody Way Mooney. Safety laws require that slides dump their users in clear water, so underwater object and other people can be clearly seen. Erecting the ruinously expensive structures and safety fences would rob general Rockpool users of more than half the enclosure, and then there would be the cost of security to watch over the extracurricular after-hours sliding temptation by little feral snots, of which there is no shortage in the berg. So this financial misadventure was tucked away out of sight in storage.

Then our publicity-seeking genius comes along and decides he can gain cheap publicity with a populist call for the slides to be used, which prompted the ever compliant Astonisher to come up with one of it’s oxymoronic contribution to civic argument by suggesting ‘Clr Walker has reignited debate over water parks’. By any measure and that description, it's fizzled.

Mind you, it’s just an idea, and the intellect behind the argument is definitely from the shallow end of this particular gene pool. In essence, Messagebank wants private enterprise to step in and build what – as a stand alone – would be a money-losing enterprise, with the council’s contribution being the slides themselves. Nice to see a Labor bloke supporting the idea of public money supporting private enterprise.

Look, let’s face it, Les is a transparent political dill, so why all the posturing on all manner of subjects that don’t concern him. During the week, though, our man thought this chance at seeing himself in the paper, posing for a pic in front of the dismantled water slides, was worth missing two important council committee meetings that day – you know, the sort of stuff  for which we pay this laziest of councillors $90k+ p.a.

But why this seemingly pointless – and often hilarious – self-promotion?

Well, The ‘Pie will posit that it goes something like this. Our failed pizza shop operator and union heavy probably believes – maybe even reminded – that since the laws have recently been changed, councillors including mayors no longer have to resign to run for higher office.

It is known that Mayor Mullet is already canvassing Labor pre-selection for the state seat of Townsville, having the sense to realize she is probably a one-term mayor. Now, in the most unlikely situation that she even gets pre-selected let alone elected, (although John Hathaway’s Invisible Man act might give her a glimmer of hope), someone would be needed to carry the ALP flag in the council election.

So it is reasonable to assume that Les Walker’s self-delusion has stretched to imagining he has a possible shot at the top job. And The Astonisher hangs on every bit of spindrift  Messagebank spouts like sea foam on a tidal surge.

Can hardly wait for his next cunning plan - maybe expanding local sports to include 'heading the shot' and 'catching the javelin'.

35 comments:

  1. Regarding the bribes, didn't they offer diamond rings?

    Anyways, love the pope pixs. Makes me feel like we're in god's hands.. Bring back Costello.

    Always good and entertaining.

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    1. Replace the characters of this clip as News ltd versus fairfax. The Ring.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aStYWD25fAQ

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  2. Well Tony Ireland recently obtained a Bank of Queensland Francise he should be able to obtain finance to set up news print operation

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  3. Conan the GrammarianFebruary 16, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    Really liked the Oscar Pistorius quatrain. At risk of incurring commercial grief, I wonder how long before someone works the "Should've gone to Specsavers" theme into it?

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    1. Hi Pie.

      Great read as usual. It would have been better if the asteroid fell over Townsville instead of Russia. Would have put Townsville on the map. I am not sure if the Astonisher would have covered it as most of the time they're asleep.

      As for Oscar, I think the whole nation is in shock over this incident.

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    2. No 'Eileen' jokes either.

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  4. There was a judge hearing a case about a home renovation gone wrong. When asked how he raised the house, the builder replied "With four jacks". The judge quietly mused, "If I had four jacks, I would raise the house too."

    I think that it was the same judge who had the tables turned on him. After hearing a long-winded technical explanation from the barrister, the judge said, "Well, I am none the wiser for that". The young barrister replied, "That may be so, m'lud, but you are certainly better informed."

    Locally, a younger Terry Betts was putting up a plea for a young lady who shoplifted a gold chain by slipping it into a cigarette packet. Seeing that Beak Sarah Bradley (as she then was) was unimpressed by his efforts, Betts implored, "Your Worship - on top of all that, she no longer chain smokes!"

    I think Pistorius may require, not a funny judge, but an extremely gullible one.

    Was there not a microscopic article in the Saturday Bully-Tin putting some crazy spin on those readership figures?

    And I am not too sure about a newspaper whose editorial content is controlled/infuenced by the likes of Ferry, Lancini and Ireland (and, by association, Barry Taylor), even if its prime focus is advertising.

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  5. Apparently, the Bulletin give the paper away to home delivery customers & the flat wrapped papers were supposed to bring back all the customers who did not like the plastic rolled ones, and still the circulation falls.
    I hear the distributors are not too happy either.

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    1. If that's the case then hell I'm being ripped off!

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  6. Conan the GrammarianFebruary 17, 2013 at 7:44 AM

    Really liked the Oscar Pistorius quatrain. At risk of incurring commercial grief, I wonder how long before someone works the "Should've gone to Specsavers" theme into it?

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  7. As usual, the Astonisher's Brisbane subs are useless.

    http://www.townsvillebulletin.com.au/article/2013/02/16/375574_news.html

    The image's caption does not match with image of person.

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    1. The 'Pie noted the discrepancy online, but the paper itself got it right (as it should do). But online or hard copy, publishing is poublishing and that mistake is getting close to being actionable, especially if any of the kids named in the caption start getting teased at school or socially about the matter. An apology would be nice.

      But in fairness, this is nothing new.

      The Magpie more than once (OK quite often in the early years) made some stupid bloopers on his court rounds, things that subs would not know were wrong (names, interpretations of court outcomes and the like) where the penalty was having to face judges and other legal things the next day. He even managed to once have a trial aborted through misinterpretation. Outcome - great embarrassment and not fun.

      Some years ago, the now Managing Ediitor Ann Roebuck, acting as editor on a Sunday shift, published a photograph of a teenager who was allegedly the dead driver of a car that smashed into a tree in Pallarenda. The pic was dug up from social pics on file. The kid in question was most surprised to find himself declared dead the next morning, and his parents weren't overjoyed either. And neither were the parents of the dead boy. Outcome unknown.

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    2. I think the issue is that the images and captions are not valued enough in context with the story.

      It's dismissed so easily. Ready for a new story to begin.

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    3. Hah! I remember the aborted trial debacle. There were some sniggers on the breezeway over that. I can't recall the specifics, but I can recall at the time that I thought that someone was being a little precious over the whole thing.

      I'd wager you were a little more cautious with the Fenians...

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  8. Pie, I thought of a politically incorrect joke on my morning walk:
    Why will Oscar's defence case fail? Because it doesn't have a leg to stand on.
    Apologies to my disabled friends.

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    1. oh, purrrleeese! And to stop any rush on this theme, let The 'Pie suggest despite his unhappy situation, he still has a spring in step.

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    2. Apart from seniors reading the papers. I think they're out the door. Including the feely good lifestyle mags. (realestate agents are publishing themselves)

      The media houses don't have a product to sell.

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  9. Oh God they get worse Pie....! As to falling circulation - why so surprised? The paper has wanna be L plate columnists with no life experiences to draw upon who write drivel eg yesterday's Gray Matters re her sister's wedding (woeful and painful) which solicited one gushing comment from her Aunt! And of course the obligatory real estate promo piece re falling house prices which became a promotional story for South Townsville with one agent likening it to Melbourne's Carlton. I know it is her opinion but hell we're not idiots! For a CITY of 200,000 people we deserve a better quality paper frankly!

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  10. If you work inside the Astonisher you'll realise there's a lot of pervert the course of justice when it comes to work conditions.

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  11. Talking about circulation, those who pay big bucks to advertise in The Astonisher might be interested to know where some of those paper "sales" came from. Word from the V8 Superpests suggests that the Astonisher's marketing guru did a deal with the race organisers for them to buy thousands of newspapers, which were then placed in stands in all the corporate boxes on race days - 99% of them blowing in the wind and never read, despite the fact they were free.
    But The Astonisher can still count them as sales because they were technically paid for by the Superpests. In return, The Astonisher gives the Superpests free promotional exposure in the paper.
    The really scary part - for advertisers - is that it doesn't just happen with the motor racing!!!!

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    1. If Pie could score some 'bird seed' advertising, I'd read the product on his blog.

      As for the Superpest advertsing? Most stories are launched in sync for each city. As there's so much advertising around the venues it doesn't really matter what the journo writes about bc it's all about what's in the image. eg. driver with logo, car with logo, tyres, alcohol etc.

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  12. Horses for courses. Interesting the hysteria in Europe over this. Not in New Zealand.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/8314637/Giddy-up-Horses-for-main-courses

    A popular Pacific dish known as lo'i hosi, which is eaten at community gatherings.

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  13. Week after week, we hear of the failings of our local News Ltd. publication. People complain to me about their inability to have comments, texts and letters printed because of their subject matter.

    Townsville needs an organised and properly funded web-site to counter this controlled information flow, lack of debate and insight into the real issues being played out nationally.

    I am willing to pay a subscription to a fully-informed un-biassed news sevice with an emphasis on National, State and local information that allows us to make informed decisions.

    Perhaps some local advertisers could canvass the ideas of local people and find the number of people willing to subscribe to this venture.

    We have a plethora of residents, not only willing to read such a news-source, but able to contribute positive viewpoints to any debate.

    At the moment, Media is corrupted by the stench of political interference. Perhaps we can be the harbinger of truth in reporting and a message to all.

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    1. Tom, you're spot on. The stench is infiltrated into the tv news, radio etc. so forget them all.

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  14. What will the ABC media call the 1300 smiles stadium?

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    1. Conan the GrammarianFebruary 20, 2013 at 8:24 AM

      I'm trying to get my head around a biffo venue like a football stadium, being sponsored by a company whose services the players would seldom use except reconstructively. We seldom see the players' teeth, unless they're arguing with the referee. In the interest of 'Truth in Advertising', why not call it "Mouthguard Stadium"?

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    2. That's funny Conan.

      Or the Say cheese stadium

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  15. Several years ago arriving passengers at the Townsville Airport had access on arrival to a free Bully . It was placed in a red and white cardboard display box It lasted about 6-7 months until all the departing passengers (and airport staff) would get their free paper The order was in excess of 300 per day no money ever changed hands other than free advertising to the previous Airport owners.I guess these were countered in circulation.(maybe Townsville Enterprise paid for them)

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  16. Tom you are deadset having a lend of yourself . Reading this as the truth and nothing but the truth and unbiased. No lies or spin here! Old bitter and twisted would never tell a lie

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    1. Anonymous our sadly anonymous correspondent, if you are referring to "this" as the Pies written words here, and believing the Magpie would tell a' lie" then you are the one having a lend of yourself. What would be the end gain, he has never run for any political or community funded office ( as far as I am aware) so has nobody to lie to to gain or keep any position. A politician who does not on the other hand, use spin and stretch the truth. Please don't get us started. The people who read and wait impatiently for these weekly musings know that this is the place to get the "real" story of what is happening because we have lost faith in the Newslimted press to tell us without all of the sensational EXCLUSIVE crap behind it. This town is in desparate need of an accountable and reliable alternate. And if half the stories of what is endured by the staff at the Astonisher are true, and I have had some myself, then good luck to the rest of them. Don't forget where our friendly Pie came from and why he left. Perhaps this could contribute somewhat to your accused "bitter and twisted" character assessment of him.

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  17. Always wacky and yet always, entertaining.

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  18. I know how the astonisher is now marketing the stadiums name........

    Do you like the new name of the city's stadium - 1300SMILES Stadium?

    Yes (15%) No (85%)

    Voting has Closed
    Obviously, the ABC voted.

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  19. Conan the GrammarianFebruary 22, 2013 at 7:44 PM

    Could it possibly be 1300 similes?
    A head like a beaten favourite...
    Gone like Anna Bligh...
    Off like a bucket of prawns in the sun...
    expressions of like nature.

    Whaddya reckon, 'Pie? D'ya reckon a competition to find a universally-recognisable simile for the stadium might work?

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  20. In yesterdays Arsestonisher Ewen Porky Pies Jones at the top of page 4 displays his usual engage mouth before engage brain style.
    On the subject of work for the dole, this peoples representative states that working for the dole is not a good idea coz if they don't front up "what do you do? send them to jail? !!!!!!!. Its very simple no show no dole.

    Why do our pollies always ignore simple solutions.

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