Saturday, May 19, 2012

Townsville gets a Shogun, a powerful figure behind the ceremonial mayoral throne - and on the national scene, Bill ’The Short ‘Un’ Shorten’s strange attempts to short-circuit rumors of an affair only cranks up the voltage,

Yes, as predicted, it appears the Ego has crash-landed in Walker Street with Jenny The Moaning Mullet Hill losing her very first power play as mayor, just an hour after being sworn in. The Magpie ponders on a situation which, looking at the next four years, reminds him of Bette Davis’s famous line ‘Fasten your seatbelts, it going to be a bumpy night’.

What Bill Shorten didn't say .... 

And those racy teases - the accidental on-air naughtiness of  ABC radio.

All here with other stuff in this week’s nest at

 First, a wee peep intoi the Language Locker.

The word we are looking at is ‘shogun’. For those of you who haven’t read James Clavell’s excellent novel of the same name, the Collins Dictionary defines shogun thus:

shogun |ˈ sh ōgən|
a hereditary commander-in-chief in feudal Japan. Because of the military power concentrated in his hands and the consequent weakness of the nominal head of state (the mikado or emperor), the shogun was generally the real ruler of the country.    
Change ‘commander-in-chief’ to ‘Deputy Mayor Vern Veitch’, military power’ to ‘council majority’ and ‘nominal head of state’ to ‘Townsville mayor Jenny Hill’  and you pretty well much have the strange situation we in the ‘Ville find ourselves. As usual, the brilliant Bentley has a succinct summation.
'Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, eh, Mayor Mullet, m'dear?'

Last Wednesday at the ceremonial meeting to start the council’s term, Vern Veitch headed off potentially disruptive challenges from within his own Townsville First mob and was elected unopposed as deputy doo-dah. He now has the support of seven – eight if independent Pat Ernst comes to the party - of the eleven councillors.

Although there will be some inevitable divide and conquer tactics down the track, Mayor Mullet soon found out the reality of her current situation.

For two weeks, she had been heavily canvassing individual councilors, seeking to be appointed to the powerful chair position on the Planning and Development Committee. This is the committee where political game playing can be best manifest by those interested in politics and not necessarily progress. The boys from what is laughingly called the Big End of Town had been nervously sucking their thumbs at the thought of the Mullet having a casting vote on this committee, hoping against hope that she wouldn’t get the position.

She didn’t.

Soon after she was sworn in and the selection of committee members went to the vote, the mayor, much to her chagrin, got only three votes against Clr Tony Parsons’ eight. This result so put The Mullet’s nose out of joint, she soon afterwards had a public moan to the media, making a statement so hypocritical that she earns The Magpie’s occasional prize of the Janus Two-Faced BUMM Award. You two regular readers will remember this award, with the BUMM standing for Barefaced Unmitigated Meatheaded Mendacity.

Clearly still miffed (that’s polite ‘Pie-speak for monumentally pissed off ) our new mayor indicated she was dismayed that the TF councillors voted  as a ‘block’  and they had ’caucused’ how they would vote privately before the swearing-in. She made it plain that she thought this sort of behavior dastardly in the extreme.

Oh, really? That is more than a bit rich coming from someone who for almost a decade was a leading member of erstwhile mayor Tony Mooney’s one-arm aerobics class aka council meetings.  Before every meeting, the members of the Labor majority retired to a private room and had any debate behind closed doors, but all agreed to abide by the ultimate majority decision. Then it was back into the unwelcome public glare and a matter of ‘All in favour, hands up, hands down, next matter all those in favour …’ and so on. In that way, none of us mug voters and ratepayer knew how our divisional councillor had fought for or otherwise stood on any issue, on our behalf.

Jenny me old Mullet, the flapping sound you hear behind you is that of chickens coming home to roost.

And may The ‘Pie suggest you’d better get used to it. As Mongrel the Barrister so inelegantly put over his fifth glass of White Infuriator ‘ If Uncle Fester (his pet term for the follicilly challenged Vern Veitch) can keep his conservative mob on the same page, he’ll have Mayor Mullet’s political tits in a wringer for as long as he likes’.

But Mayor Mullet doesn’t see it that way. There was a touch of the supremely delusional when she airily dismissed the situation, claiming  that since  she is the mayor, she sits ex officio on all committees, so ‘I will have the ultimate power’.  Bit of a giveaway in the attitude department, darlin’, but also dead wrong. There are eight five-member committees, with the chair holding a casting vote. Perhaps Jenny missed it, but there is only one committee – the somewhat irrelevant Smart City/Sustainable City Committee – where both of the mayor’s Labor colleagues, Messagebank Walker and Colleen Doyle are together.  In all the others, Jenny has just one or none - and the mayor does not have the power of veto.

So Jenny, meet Alice, she’s from Wonderland, and she may have a few tips for you. Or are you about to become Malice in Wonderland?
Alice and Mayor Mullet have tea with the councillors after the swearing-in.

On the national scene, in one of the stranger attempts at damage control, Bill Shorten made a feeble and ill-advised attempt to quash internet rumours that he had  an affair with a staffer who became pregnant. (See last week’s blog). This stuff had been floating around cyberspace for a while now, and some reputable people swear it is true. But it has never seen the light of day in the mainstream media. That is, until a couple of weeks ago, when Piers Ackerman (wouldn’t you know it?) wrote a piece in the Sydney Telegraph, telling the tale but with no names.

So, drawing inspiration from Baldrick’s Book of Cunning Plans, Bill went public in the papers, denying the rumours.

BUT, as is glaringly obvious,  he neglected to say just what he was denying. 

No mention of an affair, a bun in the oven, or that the missus may have left the marital couch, just a few stilted words about nasty, unspecified gossip and ugly politics, a posed happy snap with the missus - we don't know when it was taken - and a affirmation that he has a loving relationship with wife Chloe. That left many readers bewildered, wondering what the hell he was on about, since the vast majority didn't know about the internet tittle-tattle. (You can bet they do now). 

So what was he denying? The affair and pregnancy?  Or that his marriage was on the rocks? Or that wife Chloe and their daughter had moved back in with mummy Quentin Bryce, the Governor General? If things are as he says, he could easily have been more forthright – and should have been. In his own words, the rumours are hurtful to loved ones, so why didn’t he simply and easily clear things up? Why didn't he just say what being said, without saying anything to identify anyone else, and then clearly and flatly deny it? While that remains the lingering question, this matter will not - so as to speak - be put to bed.

The Magpie has been chided for joining the scores of others who have delved into this potentially grubby little melodrama, asking the old bird why this is news. Well, it sure is if it’s true, given that Shorten could well be the prime minister of this country within months, if not weeks, and anyway, as a government minister, must be publicly held to higher standards than others. And since this story first surfaced last September, nature will have moved matters along a bit, if you get the drift, so other questions are now raised, but you can figure them out for yourself.

Chloe said in the newspaper article that like any other couple, they had had their ‘ups and downs’. Could be that hubby Bill has been having more than his extracurricular fair share of those around the place.

Pat 'Oops' Hessian
Speaking of which, there have been a few intriguing moments on ABC radio of late.  A few blogs back, The ‘Pie was fascinated with an in-depth story on the fact that it was testicle tickling time for bulls in Queensland. It sure was an 'in depth' report - in every way - what with the performance-enhancing tickling achieved by inserting an electrified rod into the south end of a north-bound animal. Then a week or two ago, ABC's drive time man Pat Hessian was interviewing a singer who told him that she and her partner had been ‘falling in and out of love for the past 12 years’. Before he could stop himself, the genial Mr Hessian blurted out “ More in than out, I hope’.  The ‘Pie nearly ran off the road hearing this.

And then, just this week, the old bird got somewhat excited when a demure female reporter previewed the stories coming up in the Country Hour, including  ‘… and we will go to Airlie Beach  to look at women in sugar’. Lurid visions swam before the old bird’s eyes (this would make him pie-eyed, of course) which involved some good sorts who were also good sports frolicking around in sugar and its derivatives,  Golden Syrup among them.  Alas, as it turned out, ‘Women In Sugar’  was a gabfest for gals involved in the sugar cane industry. And any lingering lascivious notions were certainly dispelled by a TV news report that night. As Mongrel the Barrister so chivalrously put it after seeing the item ‘Jeez, those Brunhildes are built big enough to hold a bull out to pee over a barbed wire fence’.   He’s such a delicate dear, our Mongrel.

However, it all could have been worse: The Magpie reckons Women In Sugar is a damn sight better than Men In Sheep.

Enough now, The ‘Pie must answer the siren song of Poseurs’ Bar, where he will seek a suitable companion into whose ear he hopes to whisper sweet nothings, some of which may involve Golden Syrup.

Note: The Magpie and Pat hessian talk politics and other silly stuff on Monday afternoons at about 5.20, on ABC 630 North Queensland.



  1. Well well. Tony "My wife is sick so I need time off to call a basketball game" Parsons is to chair the council planning committee. Gee, those faceless businessmen who bankrolled the Townsville First (Last) campaign must be rubbing their hands together. Time has come, methinks, to keep close eye, and a record, of developmet approvals, and the names of local legal eagles connected to those approvals.

  2. Now, now, Snugglepot, have a little lay down in a darkened room and put a dap cloth on your forehead. It just doesn't work that way ... just like it is very rare to rig a team game, it would be hard for a committee to be on the take - even if that were a remote possibility under the present system. The worst nefarious thing that could happen would be inordinate delays citing technical legalities. Just for the record, the Planning and Development Committee members are, Parsons, Ernst, Walker Gartrell and Veitch, with the Mullet as an ex-officio voting member. And don't forget, all proceedings involve professional public service officers, who The Mullet has already told to get their fingers out in the efficiency department.

    1. the event of a stalemate, Mr Parsons does have a casting vote. Given his track record, the Faceless Men who bankrolled the Townsville First campaign with BIG money would be feeing rather smug right now. I, for one, will be watching the Planning Committee with great interest.

  3. Always entertaining!