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, everybody’s been looking out for another parrot and the Crikey Bird Watching Team think it hasn’t made our feathered friend a very happy boy.

Sydney’s been abuzz. Everyone’s been talking about the parrot but not the right one Hector.

Wednesday morning saw Daily Telegraph readers presented with the blaring front page headline “Give the Parrot Back”, with accompanying text “What kind of people steal a talking galah that has been part of a community for 31 years”.

The Crikey Bird Watching Team was confused. Gloria has only been doing talkback radio for 16 years. But when we read on, we discovered it was about another talking galah called Hector.

On the surface it was a simple human interest story. But in fact it was a thinly disguised tongue-in-cheek attack on our Gloria and we don’t mean Mark Latham-style tongue in cheek.

Ever since news of his disappearance after three decades of sitting on a West Ryde footpath entertaining passers-by with cries of “Give me a kiss”, “Hector, Hector, Hector”, “Give me a scratch”, “See you later mate” and “Some days people treat you like offal” (whoops, wrong parrot) was splashed all over the Telegraph, Hector has dominated the media.

That’s what our Parrot likes to do. He gets very nasty when his squawks get ignored. let alone when we don’t pay attention as he runs up and down his ladder and rings on his bell as one of his guests discovered.

It was only the week before that the Prime Miniature appeared on the Parrot’s show and all that happened was that the Parrot cawed softly and gave the little fella the odd, affectionate, gentle peck:

PARROT: Welcome home.

PRIME MINIATURE: Thank you very much.

PARROT: Goodness me. Look I must add my question I suppose to the queues that are asking when is John Howard going to give it away? I mean he seems to be fitter and fresher than ever.

PRIME MINIATURE: I’m certainly feeling very fit and I’m finding the job very stimulating every day.

PARROT: Do you regret the fact that you made that silly comment 18 months ago?

PRIME MINIATURE: Well to come back to a time honoured phrase of mine I’ve got nothing to add on that subject.

PARROT: What did Bette Davis say, I’m somewhere between 40 and death.

Then Hector came along, got all over the front pages and the next day Prime Miniature was silly enough to stick his head in the cage again. He didn’t just get bitten. He got the full treatment and do all over his head:

PARROT: PM, I wrote to you as you know on July 16 about the funding of this SACS award. Are you in any position to clarify what is to happen to the short fall of $68.8 million?

PRIME MINIATURE: Well, I don’t except that there’s a Commonwealth short fall of $68 million. The original arrangement was that we, in 1992, we took over employment accommodation services and the states took over disability services…I’m sorry, we took over employment services and the states took over accommodation services for the disabled and we agreed to pay them a certain amount a year plus indexation. And since then we have progressively increased the base amount of that funding and whether it was shortly before or shortly after the 16th of July, there was a further offer made of $125 million under that agreement to cover a period of five years and the states were asked to match that money. And it’s my understanding that states are yet to respond to that, although the Commonwealth is hopeful that there will be a positive response [inaudible].

PARROT: So your telling me, in spite of what I have written to you, you’ve seen the details and you’re not prepared to provide another cent to these people? I’m looking at some figures here, the Commonwealth

PRIME MINIATURE: Alan, I didn’t say that.

PARROT: Well these people are going to be turfed out

PRIME MINIATURE: Well, what I would like is that where there are individual cases where you believe that particular services are going close or be downgraded, I would like you to send me the information about those individual services.

PARROT: Surely if your minister is doing her job, which she’s not, and I think she’s

PRIME MINIATURE: In fairness Alan, I don’t accept that.

PARROT: No you can’t accept it. You won’t say it. But if she’s doing her job, she’ll tell you that.

PRIME MINIATURE: I’m not just doing that in an automatic..[inaudible].

PARROT: No hang on here, I’m not the minister. If she’s doing her job, she’ll be able to tell you where the problems lie. She can’t, because she doesn’t know and she doesn’t know where the disabled people in need are in this country. She couldn’t even tell people who represented her the other day exactly where the problems lie. I mean, it is an extraordinary abdication

You get the drift. Our bird seemed to be very angry that another parrot was hogging the limelight.

The PM should have been forewarned, too. When it first reported poor Hector’s disappearance, the Telegraph published a useful guide for the layperson, headed “Things you didn’t know about a galah” and there it all was.

“Males in captivity are better talkers than females”, it read along with a warning. “They can be unpredictable as a pet and should not be allowed to sit on shoulders.”

Silly Prime Miniature! Silly Tony O’Dreary! They must have known they were taking a risk.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that the leading suspects in Hector’s disappearance are two women in their fifties and that’s got us wondering. You, dear reader, are probably asking the same questions too.

Can anyone tell us just where, on that fateful afternoon, was Stephanie? And who’s her friend?

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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