“Welcome to the traditional owners of Bennelong, the Liberal Party!” Liberal Party campaign manager Rod Bosman reportedly said at a fundraising lunch last week.
Politically incorrect jokes are my forte, so I laughed out loud when I read it. But was Bosman, not known for his sparkling sense of humour, actually cracking a joke?
Liberal Party candidate and tennis celebrity John Alexander is then quoted as saying that “when I was preselected I said that Bennelong was sacred Liberal ground. I stand by it. It’s an emotional ground for us and we are going to get it back.”
Were both men referring to Tony Abbott’s comment that the traditional “Welcome to Country” greeting at government functions was “out-of-place tokenism”? And so have they decided to replace it with a “Welcome to the Liberal Party”? In fact, the seat is named after Woollarawarre Bennelong, one of the senior members of the Eora nation, who also gave his name to Bennelong Point, the site of the Opera House. If the Liberal Party wins back Bennelong at the next federal election, what are they going to do, rename it “Winston”?
The problem is, of course, that if Bennelong is “sacred Liberal ground”, then no one seems to have told the voters. Last federal election, former journalist Maxine McKew beat John Howard to win the seat for the ALP. (Disclosure: I wrote a book about it) She now holds the seat with a slim margin of 1.4% and is presently campaigning hard to keep it.
And for Alexander, surely his “emotional ground” lies under the White City Tennis Club, where he has been fighting it’s “traditional owners” for about three years. The High Court has just ruled in his favour, and he now has until the end of June to fund the $6.7 million he owes his lender, property developer Lang Walker.
But I wish I’d been at the Marriott Hotel in Ryde for the “traditional” post-Budget business lunch, because then I’d know whether they played “God Save the Queen” (not the S-x Pistols version) and gave each other the Masonic handshake. And where was John Howard? Too busy with the cricket.
Meanwhile, further east, the campaign for the state seat of Balmain has gone feral. Local ALP member Verity Firth, who is in real danger of losing her seat to the Greens, has waded in to the most controversial local issue of all — dogs and cafes.
A proposed amendment to the Companion Animals Act would require dogs in cafes to be leashed, not to be fed and not to be placed on the owner’s lap. I spend my life explaining to dog owners that the existing legislation forbids dogs from entering a café, but in caninophile Balmain, I am viewed as a termagant.
The problem is, though, that the locals like to take their schnoodles down to Lilyfield’s Café Bones on the weekend, where they can sip coffee and watch them biting each other and knocking over small children. The new Act would close down Café Bones, and the locals are ropable.
Now, Firth, bravely, has waded in.
“While the aims of the Bill are admirable,” says Firth, “It is my firm opinion that if it is applied consistently across all dining establishments, then it will have unintended and unnecessary negative consequences on kiosks and cafes such as Café Bones, which cater specifically to dogs and dog owners in off-leash areas.”
One of the current Leichhardt Councillors recently told me that on entering politics, he had received some sage advice. Never take sides on any issue concerning dogs, he was told, as half the population loves them and the other half hates them — it’s no-win.
But wouldn’t it be fabulous if my dreams came true, and my suburb became dog-free?
“Welcome to the traditional owners of Balmain, the dog-haters!” Sacred ground, indeed.