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 is worried that he’s slipping back into bad habits.

Being part of the Crikey Bird-Watching Team isn’t without it’s problems. Listening to the Parrot’s morning harangues and predictions of doom and gloom can send the unwary over the edge.

One of our more sensitive watchers was so badly affected that he had trouble leaving the house for fear of being attacked on the streets and could not open the front door for fear of home invasion. So, on doctors orders, Crikey sent him off on a bit of R&R in Europe and he’s clearly recovering

Our little Parrot Watcher’s mental health is much improved as he’s seen fit to reports a strange sighting from Stiges, south of Barcelona, the favourite gay holiday site in Spain.

Stiges is full of gay bars that open at different times through the day, and the locals and accompanying army of tourists move from one to another through the day as they open and close. And would you believe that the first to open each day after siesta is called Parrots Pub. Our little watcher has felt very happy there, sitting in the sun enjoying a few ales with the sign of the parrot dangling over his head and not a dropping in sight.

But that’s not all. Our watcher had a look in his Lonely Planet Spanish phrase book and discovered that the local equivalent of “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is “loro viejo no aprende a hablar”, which means “an old parrot doesn’t learn to talk”.

Back home, our observations have taught us that if they learn young enough, they never bloody shut up. And when they talk in exchange for seed lots and lots of seed then you have some real problems.

When Harry M Miller owned our Parrot and his cage was hanging in 2UE, the Squawks for Seed Scandal blew up big time. Even worse was Silence for Seed, where various commercial interests kept our Parrot quiet by stuffing his beak completely with food.

The Parrot is now owned by a discerning gentleman, Singo, and he has taken the approach that if he gives him a huge quantity of seed, he won’t cause any problems for 2GB by taking it from other sources but has he underestimated the Parrot’s insatiable appetite for the stuff?

When we opened our copy of “The Parrots of Australia: A Guide to Field Identification and Habits” on Friday, we found someone had slipped something between the pages. It turned out to be a copy of an internal Telstra report and contained this worrying paragraph:

“Sponsorships Advising on Telstra sponsoring talk-back hosts and shows. External legal have confirmed that Telstra is able to enter contracts provided the licensee (radio station) must broadcast a disclosure announcement when the announcement is broadcast and how often depends on what exactly the sponsor is contributing. The licensee must also keep a register of commercial agreement between sponsors and presenters.”

Very worrying again because it sounds just like Seed for Squawks or Cash for Comment all over again.

Now, bird-watchers are a simple breed, so we have no idea if this memo might be linked to something like the much mooted T3, a further sale of Telstra. But even innocents like us know that they’ll need something special to convince the mum and dad investors to burn more hard earned money on telco shares.

The Parrot was quite vocal last week on the Sydney Airport sale and we trust this wasn’t driven by previous large amounts of seed and first class flights that came has way from Qantas. Is the national carrier worried that the new airport owners are going to cut corners and jack up prices to get a return on their investment? Anyway, the Parrot called the sale “disturbing” before launching into an extended squawk: “the question has to be asked: is this affordable Even though it may well be good for the government, it may be unaffordable for the taxpayer. One wonders whether the government has done its homework.”

That just the Today show warm up. The Parrot pecked pitilessly at the Government, Finance Minister Nick Minchin and Transport Minister John Anderson during on 2GB:

“Well the Sydney airport sale, as I warned yesterday, is a shambles.

“It’s even worse.

“45.6 billion. (sic , try $5.6 billion)

“It’s unaffordable.

“And that means that the airport will be under all sorts of pressure.

“As one airline representative said, ‘They are going to need all the traffic growth they can get after paying that much for it…. and the only real way to get growth without needing significant capital expenditure is to change the movement cap and shift the curfew, now 11pm to 6am….. and that is going to have to be looked at in the future.’

“Of course, all the Finance Minister, Nick Minchin, is worried about is the money.

“And he says it will be used to retire debt.

“Well try spending a bit on the disabled.

“That would be a start.

“And if it saves taxpayers $250 million a year in industry payments, put the $250 million into services for carers and the disabled.

“John Anderson, the Transport Minister, says there are no plans to change flight restrictions.

“But he couldn’t give any long-term guarantee.

“Future governments couldn’t be bound by the terms of the sale.

“He said, “residents of Sydney can be confident that the sale of the airport will not change the government’s noise policy…”

“Well they don’t know what they are talking about”

Now, if you were flogging more of Telstra or just laying the ground for a sale, you wouldn’t want to be pecked by the Parrot like that, would you? And that makes some of our recent observations very, very interesting indeed.

The Crikey Bird Watching Team has seen some strange comings and going from the hide strange comings and goings between Telstra, Singo’s ad agency and 2GB. We’ve also heard strange bird song, an eerie call that sounds like “$1.25 million ad contract”. What does this all mean?

As we said before, bird watchers are simple, trusting types.

The Parrot’s register of interests on the 2GB website says the only outside interest he currently has is his deal for his morning squawk on Channel 9.

Singo, whose ad agency values Telstra as its single biggest client, told the Australian’s Media section earlier this year that the Parrot didn’t need to squawk for seed.

And no-one would be silly enough to try cash for comment or some variation on it again, would they.

Certainly not such a vital concern as Telstra a concern that’s still majority government owned.

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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