Alan Jones is no longer just Gloria, but Gloriana, the reigning queen of radio and Crikey is keeping an ear on what Australia’s most powerful shock jock has to say. This week, the Crikey Bird-watching team has been left scratching their heads. Is our special Parrot a wily bird or just a birdbrain?

Readers, we’re confused. Is our special Parrot a wily bird or just a bird brain? We can’t make up our minds.

It’s easy, of course, to get disorientated when you rise before dawn every weekday and then spend three and a half staring at the radio through your binoculars and watching the Parrot as he goes about his tricks can become strangely hypnotic. Still, for a while there last week we were quite impressed and began to think our Parrot was quite a wily bird.

The New South Wales state budget was handed down with such a dizzying amount of spin that humble ornithologists like the Crikey Bird-watching team felt quite sick and needed to sit down.

Our Parrot seemed able to deal with it. Perhaps he got used to the being spun round and round in the cyclones and other wild weather while back in the nest in the tropical climes of Queensland. Whatever the case, all the spinning didn’t seem to trouble him at all as he made a racket about third-party insurance greenslips.

He started off with a few gentle cawing sounds:

“The government would tell you that greenslip premiums had gone down.

“And indeed, Mr. Carr tells me his average premium is $344.

“Well, because I said to the Premier where is your research, let me ask a couple of questions in relation to his so-called average premium, which is miles removed from what my listeners are telling me [yeah, yeah the syntax is mangled but we bet the cocky in your backyard can’t manage a paragraph have this long].

“For example, in the 2001 calendar year, the total greenslip premiums paid were $1,323,276,000.

“The number of registered vehicles was 4,452,005.

“Divide one into the other and you get $297.

“Looks pretty good.

“It’s not the $344 that Mr. Carr talks about – it’s even cheaper.”

Well, if the Premier had his finger stuck through the bars at the time, the time had come to pull it out, because that beak was only getting started:

“However, vehicles include such things as small trailers, which are 10% of the total vehicles registered.

“Mobile homes, heavy and light plant, where the cost of the greenslip is minimal.

“For example, one correspondent told me his trailer was registered for $46.

“Now those vehicles are included in the statistics.

“It surely must distort the figures that apply to cars, light trucks, motorbikes, 4WD and big trucks, which are 80% of the vehicles on the road.

“And it’s those vehicles which carry the big greenslip charges.

“And it’s those vehicles which are the subject of the complaints to me.”

And with a furious squawk, he lunged:

“So it’s all smoke and mirrors.”

He beat his wings:

“You can’t prove it because you can’t isolate the premiums paid for those vehicles.

“It should be possible to isolate those vehicles.”

He ran up and down his ladder, swung on his swing, rang his bell, fell off his perch and landed in the water bowl still squawking all the time:

“So, again I ask Mr. Carr, when he drops a figure off the top of his head of $344, where do you get it from.

“And perhaps he could give me the average premium for:

* passenger vehicles

* light trucks

* off-road passenger vehicles

* motorcycles

* heavy trucks.”

The gentle caw returned this time for his audience:

“I will tell you what.

“I bet Mr Carr takes a long time to provide the answer”

Now, the Crikey Bird-watching team has been around. We’re professionals. We’ve seen lyrebirds dance and watched peacocks preen but it’s rare to see any avian species put on a show like that show we just saw from our feathered friend.

No wonder they are always dazzled by the Parrot out in Struggle Street, where all you get are sparrows in the puddles and the odd magpie or two.

Even we were left speechless by this display. It was remarkable to see how our Parrot had started off so chirpy and ended up with the government pecked to pieces. We put down our glasses impressed. What a wily bird!

After all that, we returned to our hides the following day with more than a little anticipation. We fiddled with the dial until we had found our Parrot and sat and listened.

And there it was again that gentle cawing sound. There he was, our Parrot, making a plea to all those who heard his cries to help a young boy dying of cancer realise his wish and make the Guinness Book of Records for collecting the most business cards.

We kept listening and then a terrible chill hit our hearts.

Sometimes birds will just imitate the cries of other species and we had heard this song before. Something about another sick lad named Craig Shergold, in England an e-mail hoax that still kept thousands of unwanted cards continued inundating the local post office.

Our Parrot was squawking about a Craig John. We had heard a variation on this tune from another bird but instead of our spotters guidebooks, we turned to the urban mythbusters at Snopes.com. There it was, the story of John Craig, a fictitious boy who sent out an e-mail because he wanted to be in the

Ah well. They don’t call it “parroting” for nothing. Shame our feathered friend turned out to be nothing but a birdbrain.

From all of us at the bottom of the cage, until next time, goodbye.

The Crikey Bird-watching team can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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