Arrested Aboard the USS Stennis

I wrote this a few years ago, back when John Howard was PM, George Bush Jr was President, and my cabin mate was just the Member for Rockingham. I’ve been asked a few times in the last couple of months if I’d consider posting it, along with photos, so here it is:

USS Stennis

[img src=]120That's a portrait of Senator John Stennis on the wall - the band's practising in theJohn Stennis room.
[img src=]20The USS Stennis - Nimitz Class nuclear aircraft carrier
[img src=]60The air fleet over the mother ship
[img src=]30Some Facts and Figure
[img src=]30A fascinating photo of the ship under-going sea trials.
[img src=]60Ready to fly out, me on the left and good friend Maurice Brockwell, sadly now passed away.
[img src=]40This was us landing flying in on the 'Greyhound'.
[img src=]30The 'Welcome' sign on the operations board
[img src=]40An FA18 Cockpit
[img src=]40Ready to launch, that's a heat shield raised behind the fighter plane
[img src=]30Take off - the planes are launched by steam catapult - you can see the steam
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[img src=]40They actually test and run-in jet aircraft engines at the stern of the ship
[img src=]30Landing - you can just see the hook in these photos
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[img src=]30Stored below deck
[img src=]70The Captain's Chair
(L-R) Mark McGowan (Labor Opposition Leader), Vince de Pietro (Washington Naval Attache), Maurice Brockwell (dec), not sure who the guy is kneeling, me perched in the Captain's Chair, Cpt 'Weasel' Gallagher and Russell ? on the right
[img src=]50Cpt Gallagher and Vine De Pietro - Vince was Commander of Stirling Naval Base.
[img src=]40FA 18 take off at dusk
[img src=]30Missile launch
[img src=]30The Operations Room under the flight deck
[img src=]30The band rehearsing
[img src=]30Exchanging gifts from the Oz navy to the USA navy
[img src=]30Leaving the aircraft carrier by boat
[img src=]10Proof the arrested landing
[img src=]30Proof I did actually steer the ship
[img src=]10The Submarine is nothing to do with this trip, that's another story.

Basically you’ll be in a dark cave for the next 45 minutes. Your jacket is inflatable and has a whistle, flare and a torch. If we land in the drink, which we won’t, pop the flare and blow the whistle.” The US sailor smiles at us. We climb on board the grey United States C-2 plane (they call them Greyhounds – for moving people and parcels!) and strap ourselves in – real belts – two over the shoulders and one around the waist (only just in the case of the writer!). We are facing the rear of the plane. Apart from the pilots windscreens behind us, there only two windows and I haven’t scored either of them. The engines begin to wind up, hydraulics come into play and the tail section of the plane closes tight. It is a cave! Our sailor grins at us, “Now this ain’t no regular airline. No food, no drink, but if you’re feeling a bit queasy, hell we’ve got bags! And I’m coming round now to make sure your belts are tight, cause when we land, we stop. Quickly.”

Flying backward in the dark affects the senses. I know we’re flying out from Perth to meet the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, about 200 kilometres off the coast of Geraldton, but there’s no point of reference to gauge our progress, just a couple of dim cabin lights. Everyone looks the same, dressed in green life jackets and a curious combination helmet with earmuffs and goggles called a Cranial. We look like a bunch of marines. The scene looks like a thousand military based movies. Not only is the plane grey outside, it’s painted grey inside. The engines drone, conversation is impossible. I wonder what it would be like to be strapped in here flying out to a combat zone.

Around the same time that I notice several of us (myself included) are beginning to try and adjust the tight earmuffs, there’s a change in engine note and our man is on the microphone, “We’ll be landing in five minutes folks. Just sit upright and don’t move ‘till I tell you.” The American accent is infectious and I want to yell back “Yes Sir.” The engines rev up, slow down, then rev up again. We seem to be climbing. Then wham! From go to whoa in about three seconds. There’s no wheel touchdown as such and the overriding impression is just sort of suddenly stopping in mid-air.

The plane taxis around, stops and the tailgate opens. For a minute all I can see is a blaze of white light, then my eyes adjust. We’re on the deck of the aircraft carrier. The ship dips very slightly and there’s the blue sea of the Indian Ocean. We stumble out of the rear of the plane, disorientated but aware – almost like an out of body experience and are led into a doorway. Smiling faces greet us, take our flying gear and we are led down two or three flights of stairs to the Wardroom.

It seems the officers dress in khaki uniform, whilst the rest of the crew are in traditional navy blue. Lt David Oates, the ship’s Public Affairs Officer introduces himself and gives us a run-down on the tour. The group is broken up into two – those who’re flying back the same day and the ten of us who are lucky enough to be staying overnight. The overnighters’ first port of call is the mess for lunch.

As to where we are in the ship, none of us would know? Thankfully Amy Bender, our tour guide and guardian angel does. We grab plates and trays and walk the walk of hungry travellers – well not all of us, a couple of people are looking a bit green around the gills and politely refuse the sausages, fried onions, fried chicken and pastries. I fill my plate and fill a glass with a strawberry / kiwi fruit drink. Onya Elvis.

The whole thing still seems a bit surreal. One minute I was standing in the airport at Perth and the next minute I’m in the bowels of one of the most awesome ships the world has ever seen. A little bit about her. The keel was laid on 31 March 1991 and she was commissioned on December 9 1995. This monster is 332.8 metres long, 78.3 metres wide, 74.4 metres high, weighs 98,556 tonnes and carries 13,265,000 litres of jet fuel! Currently the ship carries in excess of 5,000 crew and 80 aircraft – somebody whispers that it’s probably more planes than the Australian airforce has.

The ship represents an almost unique blend of old and new technology, for whilst it is steam turbine driven, the steam is generated by two nuclear reactors. Later in the day, Captain Gallagher brings things into perspective for us, “This ship has a life expectancy of fifty years. In fact the person who will be this ship’s last captain is about four years old at the moment. In those fifty years, we will refuel only once, in about twenty years time!”

Lunch over, we’re escorted to our quarters to freshen up. Our bags have been placed in the two person guest cabins. Each of us has been given a superb travel and information kit and security card to unlock our cabin doors. We quickly learn that a “Head Stop” is naval speak for the toilet and that Aussie words or phrases such as, loo, or pointing Percy at the Porcelain lead very quickly to a bursting bladder. Next stop the bridge.

My legs are giving way on me, as we climb what appears to be the tenth set of stairs in three minutes. Looking around, I see that most of us are in the same boat – exhausted and perspiring. We stumble into the bridge. Captain Gallagher warmly greets us and invites us to look around. The flight deck below is a mass of movement, both humans and machinery. We watch in awe as steam driven catapults run back along their tracks and are hooked up to the jet fighters. Heat shields rise up from the deck directly behind the jets. Arms raise, hand signals are exchanged between ground crews and pilots. Full thrust is applied. The roar is beyond belief, even up here behind the glass. The deck glows red. Wham. An F/A-18 rushes down the deck, dips towards the ocean and then begins an inexorable climb towards the skies. It is an unbelievable sight. Sometimes two of them take off together, from the two different runway areas.

I become aware that we’re steaming north instead of south towards our destination of Perth. The Captain explains that he has to turn the ship into the wind for take-offs and landings and maintain the ship at a speed which will give the aircraft a deck wind speed of about 30 knots. With the aircraft all in the air, there’s time for questions. One of us asks what the ship will do (boy speak for how fast will she go). The captain indicates a computer screen in front of his chair. We are stunned into silence. At the moment the 98,000 tonne mammoth is cruising at 33.9 knots (61km/h)! There is no sense of movement, indeed the only indication of enormous speed, is the wake of the four screws. He tells us that it’s quite possible to surf on the wake.

“Would you like to steer the ship sir?”
“Is the Pope a Catholic” I think to myself and move in behind the small wooden wheel. Slowly things begin to make sense. One group of sailors is looking after engine speed, another is looking after direction (the course). The ship has two rudders and although at first it seems to respond very quickly, I am gently reminded (“Sir we’ve travelled quite a way.”) that the ship’s probably covered two kilometres since I altered the course by two degrees and consequently I now have to correct my correction.

Then we are taken down to the communications and radar rooms. On the way down the seemingly endless stairways, I gradually become aware that there are a lot of women on board the ship, something I hadn’t expected. I ask Amy about it. She tells me that currently about 10% of the crew are women (about 500) and that the navy is actively seeking to bring the percentage up as close as possible to 50%. Another question springs to mind, but I decide to leave it till later.

The communications room is a movie set. Computer screens everywhere, simulations, chartered courses. It is breathtaking. As we sit down, we see the sign written on one large wall screen – “Welcome on board mates.” Suddenly there’s an incredible noise. Aircraft touchdown. The flight deck is only about 7.6 centimetres above our heads and the sound is the arresting wire taking the strain of a jet under full power. The flight deck is small and when an aircraft lands, the pilot immediately applies full thrust, for if he misses the arrester hook, he has to be able to take off again. Just imagine the adrenalin rush as the arrester hook catches the plane, all you can see from the cockpit is the ocean rushing towards you, instinctively you apply full power and then back right off as the hook bites – all in three or four seconds! Lt Glen Leverette, the boss cocky here, explains that landing on a ship is basically a controlled crash landing. We’ll meet Lt Leverette a couple of times later on.

The radar room next door is another eye opener. It’s being run by half dozen young sailors, led by a nineteen year old girl. “Great to see you all,” she says, “My job is to send the aircraft out and bring them, in safely.” We look at the radar screens. She has about $US600 million worth of fighter planes under her control at this moment. “I’ve got them stacked at two mile intervals. That lets me bring them in and land them 54 seconds apart and also gives me time to make up for a “bolter” (a plane that misses the arrester hook), or slip in a plane short on fuel.”

Our guide leads us away to our next stop. As we climb more stairs and walk along the seemingly endless corridors of this floating city, I realise how unnervingly polite the sailors all are. They stand to one side as we walk past, invite us through doorways first and without fail address us as Sir or M’am. We end up in the room above the Bridge called the Island and it’s here Commander Mike Allen, known as the Air Boss (it’s written on his yellow tee shirt), controls all take-offs and landings. What he says goes. He’s in constant radio communication with the flight deck crews and the radar room. Nothing takes off or lands without his say so. The activity he commands is almost beyond belief.

The awesome power of the aircraft and the launching and arrester systems is mind blowing. A fully loaded F/A-18 weighs about 30,390kg and is launched from a dead stop to 264km/h in two seconds. When the same plane lands at 256km/h, it’s brought to a complete stop in 107 metres. The ship can launch an aircraft every 30 seconds!

It’s mayhem in the Tower and very cramped with the ten visitors, but somehow the crew work around us, smiling and laughing, making sure we can see everything. The Air Boss surveys the deck below, barks out orders on his microphone. He and his offsider are both trained pilots and we are told that the Commander Allen will shortly be given command of his own ship, whilst his offsider is leaving to join the commercial world of aviation, the nemesis of the navy. The navy trains its pilots so well, that airlines all over the world clamour to woo them onto the decks of 747s, with salaries the navy can’t hope to match. In fact, by the time this story goes to print, almost the entire crew on board the aircraft carrier will have changed, including the captain.

Amy smiles at us and leads us down to flight deck level. We file into a room to be confronted by “Mr T.” Chief Warrant Officer Adrian Turner is a gentle giant, about 2.5 metres tall! There’s no fat on him and the biceps on his arms are wider than most of our legs. We’re about to go out on deck and he’s explaining why we need the life vests – “Y’all might fall in the drink” and that we must stay close to him. He’s wonderfully funny and incredibly polite to a bunch of people who must be a bloody nuisance and yes, he sounds like he’s reading a movie script. Cranials on, we march out onto the deck.

The smell of jet fuel is overpowering, the heat from jet engines simmers across the deck and the noise, even through earmuffs, is colossal. Jet engines under full thrust, the almighty bang and wallop of the catapults as they come to stop. Steam hissing and rising everywhere and incomprehensible voices issuing commands via the ship’s public address system. We all look at each other, shaking our heads in disbelief, the hive of activity going on around us is mind boggling.

There’s a short lull with all the aircraft up in the air and we are led across the deck to a small area at the right rear of the carrier. This is where the Landing Signal Officer guides the planes in. A plane lands every 54 seconds. The pilot visually lines up the flight deck centre line and a system of lights to the left side of the deck. If the amber light (known as the “ball”) is not horizontal with a row of green lights, then he knows he’s too high.

We are standing just five metres from the aircraft as they come in and with the setting sun behind them, they look incredibly predatory and menacing. Gradually I become used to the approach angles and at one stage, when a plane seems too high, sure enough, it’s a “bolter” and he has to go round again. Controlled chaos seems the only way to describe the scene on the flight deck. As each plane comes to a stop, the wings fold and the plane moves to the side of the ship to refuel, the arrester cable snakes back into position, crew clear the deck and another plane lands, all in less than one minute.

The fastest planes land first, followed by the refuelling plane, the electronic plane and finally the helicopter, which is always deployed first and landed last, watching over the ship and aircraft ready to retrieve any “men overboard” or downed aircrew.

Back to our cabins to freshen up and then to the Officers Mess for dinner with Rear Admiral Gerald Hoewing, Captain Richard “Weasel” Gallagher, Captain John Sherman Jr (Commander of the Air Wing) and the other officers. The meal starts with a mandatory grace then we are seated. I’m a bit startled to see glasses of Coca Cola next to the water on the table. I’m even more startled when I realise that the drink is actually iced tea, not Coke! Of course, American ships are dry – no alcohol.

There are six of us at the table, two of whom are guests. On my right, Anthony Gonzales, the Chief Engineer, makes a joke about “RC,” (the person opposite me) never doing any real work and only flying. I ask RC what aircraft he flies, he replies that unfortunately he has to fly all of them now and then. The Chief leans over and tells me that RC’s name is Robert C Thompson and he’s actually the Deputy Commander of the air wing. We laugh over the reputation of fly boys and how they’d like to change his nickname to JC.

As the dinner conversation meanders on, I become acutely aware that the only opinions aired are from the two West Australian guests. No matter how provocative the topic, these guys don’t agree or disagree, they nod their heads, offering one word replies such as “Uh hu,” “Right,” “I see,” but there is no engagement in debate. Certainly they are only too happy to talk about home, family and career ambitions, but anything else is obviously off limits. It is a masterly display of polite controlled diplomacy.

A good mate of mine, Vince Di Pietro , ex Commander of Stirling Base (now based in Washington), has flown out with us. The Admiral calls everyone to attention and hands over a commemorative plaque from the USS John C. Stennis to Stirling Naval Base. Cdr Di Pietro also has a plaque, but says although his is a lot smaller than the Admiral’s, he’s not embarrassed, as his island is a lot bigger than the ship! Dinner over, our guide Amy tells us that the tour is scheduled to continue until 2230 hours. Struth, we’re off again. Next stop? The hangar.

Half past eight in the evening and everywhere we look there are people working. On planes, under planes, in planes. The aircraft are tied down within a couple of feet of each other, which brings something else to mind – there’s virtually no movement, no sensation of being at sea. The lighting throughout the hangar deck is very soft, similar to the lights inside a movie theatre. I stop and ask a couple of people working under the nose wheel of an F/A-18 how they can see what they’re doing, the reply is, “We get to be like owls Sir!”

Half way along the hangar, a contingent of about 50 sailors are hosing down and sweeping the floor, followed by a sailor driving a street sweeper. Meanwhile joggers run past us, on their way to the gym area at the back of the deck. The temperature in the gym can be altered to give different climatic conditions, for combat training. This aircraft carrier is, in effect, a small city of 5,000 people.

Our next stop is the jet engine repair room, at the rear of the ship. If an engine can’t be repaired in the aircraft, it’s removed, rebuilt and then test run at the back of the ship. We look incredulous. They mount the engine with the rear end pointing out over the stern and run the jet on full thrust for several hours, which would be a spectacular sight at night.

Next stop is to inspect the oxygen and nitrogen operations. They actually make all their own oxygen and nitrogen on board. Oxygen for the pilots to breath and nitrogen for the tyres on the planes. It’s an interesting comment on the cities of the world that they can’t manufacture either whilst tied up in port, the atmosphere is too polluted with methane and carbon dioxide.

Still we haven’t finished. There’s a museum area set aside to commemorate Senator John C. Stennis after whom the ship is named. We step inside to be greeted with the strains of Santana. The ship’s jazz band is practising for an appearance at a Westar Rules footie match in Fremantle. On drums we have Ensign Rodney Moss, on lead guitar, Commander John Kuehn and on keyboard, Lt Glen Leverette. I wonder what the very severe looking Senator Stennis would make of all this. These boys are good and I’d like to stay, but by now it’s 10.30pm and we are tired.

As we walk and climb back to our quarters, we pass through a large room full of people. The money changers from Thomas Cook in Perth are on board, changing US dollars for Australian. Anyone in any doubt as to the economic value of these visits to our shores would only have to spend five minutes in this room to understand the boost to the local economy. Even allowing for a spend of just $500 for each crew member, we are talking about $2 ½ million in three days! And this crew begged their Captain to bring the ship to Perth. They were supposed to call into several ports in Asia, but the crew had experienced Perth hospitality once before on their maiden voyage. It’s reported to be happy ship, with a much respected Captain. He acquiesced. Oh, just in case you were wondering about the value of the Aussie dollar – Thomas Cooks won’t exchange them back for the greenback!

Further along, we come across a long queue of patient sailors. There must be two or three hundred of them – literally. We ask Amy what could be so important at this time of the night. She smiles at us. There were two planes at Perth Airport, one for us and the other for far more important cargo (my words, not hers) mail – letters from home. These young people had worked a fourteen to fifteen hour day, but they weren’t going to bed without getting mail from home. My heart went out to them, they were the same age as my kids, but thousands of miles from their home. Here we were in one of the most powerful ships the world has ever seen and yet the reality was that these teenagers were no different to young people anywhere in the world, in their need for love, affection and news from their families.

Bedtime and we are exhausted. Amy tells us reveille will be at 6.00am and she’ll come and get us for breakfast at 6.30am … on Sunday morning! Tired or not, it takes a while to nod off. There’s no engine noise as such, but steam pipes hiss, things clang and every now and then a strange scrapping sound comes through the ceiling. I have no idea whether I’m facing north, south, east or west. I don’t even know where I am in the ship. I call out to Mark McGowan, (the Member for Rockingham) in the bunk above me, that if the ship started to sink, we’d never get out. He thinks about it for a minute and then replies he feels they are so friendly and courteous, they’d probably come and save us before themselves. In the secure knowledge that he’s right, I fall asleep.

Most of us hit the showers around about 5.50am and are thoroughly confused by the Navy tap system. Eventually we work it out and by 6.30am.we’re ready and willing for Amy. We are to have breakfast with the enlisted “men” – the ordinary crew. This means we climb down 30 sets of stairs and walk along forty corridors. The main mess is gigantic and the system is a bit of a cultural shock. There are no plates. We pick up what appear to be rubber trays with moulded sections and move along the serving windows. Like lunch, there’s lots of fried savoury dishes and lots of sweet dishes – Elvis is obviously still in the building!

We’re invited to sit down with the crew. I luck out a bit, in that the two young guys I talk to seem a bit non plussed by my presence. It occurs to me that my own son and his mates go dead quiet when I attempt to join in their conversation. Smiling to myself, I turn to Amy at the next table and ask her about sex.

“Oh sure,” she says, “It happens, but it’s not allowed and anybody caught is in very serious trouble. I mean if somebody opens a door and finds two people at it, then it’s going to hit the fan and that goes for kissing and cuddling in the corridors as well.” I tell her that I noticed several couples lounging around corridors last night who obviously had more on their minds than the shape of the ship. She laughs and says that as long as a couple were careful, called no attention to themselves and quietly snuck out to a hotel when the ship was in port, then they would probably get away with it. However, it was imperative for the chain of command that officers did not have relationships with ensigns, either on or off the ship. She hastened to add that she was married to an ex navy man and they had decided not to have children, preferring instead to build a financially secure lifestyle for themselves.

Breakfast over, we visit the hospital. There is a fully equipped theatre and the ship carries a General Surgeon, an anaesthetist and several doctors. All but the most serious cases of illness or injury are taken care of on board. All others are stabilised for safe air transport to the nearest land based hospital. As it happens, there had been a transfer to Murdoch Hospital the day before and we are told that the standard of Australian medical care is regarded as amongst the best in the world. On the way out of the hospital area, several staff are busy separating small packets from each other, “What are they?” I ask.
“Condoms Sir,” is the reply. It seems the crew (male and female) get a precautionary “travel ashore kit”, whenever they’re in port.

Amy leads us up to the flight deck. It had been impossible to tell, but the ship was no longer moving and lay at anchor in Gage Roads off Fremantle. Already the first of the barges is coming along side, commencing the start of the huge store replenishment to be carried out over the next three days. Our mobile phones work for the first time. Up on the bridge, we find the Admiral in quiet reflection, looking out the window towards Fremantle. He’s looking forward to joining his wife at Burswood Resort. Somebody mentions the golf course, he laughs and says there would be absolutely no brownie points in even thinking about picking up a golf club. A flotilla of ferries and boats are making their way out to the ship and it’s time for our official farewell in the Wardroom.

The Admiral, the Captain and all senior officers are present. The Admiral appears genuinely delighted that we have been able to join him and his crew. He presents us with certificates for our arrested landing and for steering the ship, plus a photograph album which includes pictures of ourselves landing on the ship. As always, with corporate hospitality and PR, it’s the little touches that make the difference.

As we head to Fremantle on the pilot boat, I look back. The awesome ship that is the USS John C. Stennis looks like a large dark city block sitting on top of the water. What I have I come away with? What have I learnt? The American navy believes that in the foreseeable future, we won’t see a repeat of the ship to ship battles that were a major feature of the Second World War – the Sydney / Kormorant battle springs instantly to mind. The idea of aircraft carriers like the Stennis, is to take the fight to a regional area, with the intention that the presence of the ship will act as a deterrent. I have become comfortable with nuclear power as a means of propulsion, it’s a lot more environmentally friendly than diesel or coal. However nuclear weapons remain anathema to me. As a person who has had absolutely nothing to do with any sort of military lifestyle, I have developed a profound respect for the intelligence and humanity of the people who serve on board the ship. I have learnt that not only is the Captain a trained fighter pilot, he is also a nuclear physicist. I am also stunned to find that in spite of the most incredible technology available, on the most modern aircraft carrier in the world, extensive man power is irreplaceable and absolutely necessary. I am pleased the Americans are our friends, they actually like us. Not in some condescending attitude to “you colonials,” but as fellow people with similar hopes and dreams, forgetting George Bush and his rabble government with our sycophantic Prime Minister. Earlier that Sunday morning, as we’d stood out on the quiet and still flight deck, a bugle call had played out over the PA system. Everyone stood to attention. I felt a touch awkward, a bit like being asked to pray. The Australian national anthem rang out across the ship and the water, followed by the American anthem. It was a good feeling.

Greg Ross

Anzac Day – A Personal Perspective

Anzac Day Story Illustrations

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[img src=]10Grunewald Station
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[img src=]00Gleis 17
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[img src=]00The Berlin memorial to parliamentarians who opposed the Nazis and were executed.
[img src=]00Gestapo Headquarters and the Berlin Wall
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[img src=]00Waldebuhne Stadium
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[img src=]00Ann, my finance (on the left)
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[img src=]0025, 000 cheering Germans
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[img src=]00Leonard Cohen
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[img src=]00'Then we take Berlin"
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[img src=]00First we took Manhattan, then we took Berlin

Journalists always seem to come up with new angles for Anzac Day stories. This year, much is being written of the damage done to service people on the front line. Thankfully these days it’s recognised as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, although I imagine there are still some who stubbornly refuse to accept there’s anything wrong that a a couple of beers with ‘the mates’ won’t fix. Things are very different from the days of past conflicts, such as WW1, WW11, Korea and Vietnam.

Here, my thoughts go to my own father, who lied about his age, signed up for the NZ Navy, quickly found himself being trained in radar, then rostered from allied ship, to allied ship, (English, New Zealand, Australian and American), teaching other sailors the finer points of radar. Unlike his Rat of Tobruk older brother, he came back as damaged goods, his wife and family trying to understand the problem. I recall at the age of 15yrs, going to see his aunt, in the quest for answers. I was shocked when she told me, he’d been a very funny teenager, with a great sense of humour, this was not the bloke I knew. On his return from the war, she’d found him a very different, very quiet man.

I’ve never forgotten the stories of my mother’s eldest brother, he’d served at Gallipoli. As a young boy of seven or eight, his tales both horrified and astounded me. He opened up one morning when I questioned why he vehemently didn’t want me to have Vegemite on my toast, telling me it smelt like the dead bodies lying on the fields.

Years later, I was fortunate enough to become friends with a lovely couple, he an ex SAS soldier. It turned out she had deliberately sought out the friendship, as she knew her husband needed to talk with a bloke who thought it was OK to laugh, cry and show emotion. Indirectly, that led to me offering to help organise an SAS fund raiser for the widows and children of soldiers killed in action. And now and then, I’ve come across broken men, the same age as me, who’d found themselves in the disaster that was Vietnam. There but for the grace of the dice! There was a ballot in my day, If your birthday came up, you were conscripted. It didn’t, I wasn’t.

In recent years, I’ve come to know Germany very well, indeed my fiance is German and I’ve seen what it’s like to be history’s reviled loser. There is no open celebration of sacrifice and bravery in Deutschland , just small graves in little villages and constant reminders, both self-inflicted and imposed by others, of the dark hell of the Nazi era. We proudly display our flags, although not with the mad excess of our American cousins, but the Germans have only recently given themselves permission to fly their flags at home and at sports matches. The dreadful bogan “Australia, love it of F#@$ Off” car stickers would bring a jail sentence in Germany.

Trying to explain Anzac Day to my German friends is difficult, as I understand only too well, they cannot find a way to immortalise their own service people in the way we can. Theirs is a very different remembrance, 365 days a year. Outside the Reichstag in Berlin, a small monument of stones immortalises the members of Parliament who stood up to the Nazis and were executed. Then of course, there are the soul-shattering concentration camps, such as Dachau and Auschwitz. Everyone who has the opportunity to visit one of these camps should do so, but beware, there are no words to adequately describe the drained, exhausted feeling as you leave.

For me, the most unsettling, poignant, incredible ‘monument’ in Germany, is a simple suburban railway station in Berlin. Grunewald Station is picture postcard perfect, surrounded by beautiful, elegant house and bustling with trains and commuters. But as you walk along the passage feeding the various platforms, there is one with no lights, no public address speakers and no people. Gleis 17 – Platform 17.

At the top of the stairs, it’s as if you’ve entered another world. There are two platform areas with four tracks. The platforms are covered in rusted / rust coloured metal and trees grow over the tracks at either end. It’s obvious no trains ever stop here. It’s forlornly beautiful in a strange, unsettling way. Then as you walk along the platform, piercing reality knocks the breath out of you. The metal overlay is divided into sections, each one has a date, the number of people and their destination. I defy anyone to read, “12th October 1944, 31 Jews from Berlin to Auschwitz” and not have harrowing tears well up in their eyes. Yes, this was the final stage of a terrible journey to Hitler’s Final Solution. The horror mounts as you try to make sense of this history at a suburban railway station and the eternal question circles and circles through your mind, “How did this happen?”

Historians and the Germans will try to find the answers for eternity.

I leave shaken with the lady who is now my fiance. She was right, as emotionally exhausting as it was, I had to see it. It is the most moving WW11 memorial I have ever seen. But more that that, any nation capable of confronting their past in the way the Germans do, makes them a friend worth having and a people to admire.

20 minutes later, back in Berlin and a short walk across the grass in front of the Reichstag, we come to Wilhelmstrasse, accurately signposted as the Topography of Terrors. Razed to the ground at the end of the war, this was the Gestapo Headquarters. It’s possible to stand in a basement section where people were routinely tortured and summarily shot. I do.

I look up. And find that sometimes, we learn nothing. A section of the Berlin Wall stands right over the Gestapo ruins, as a monument to on-going insanity. How could the Russians, who lost 20 million people in WW11, construct another evil on top of such evil?

12 months later, I’m back in Berlin, for an open-air concert to be held at Waldbuhne Stadium, once a potent symbol of the Nazis. Hitler had it built for the 1936 Olympics, later, he had a private box there, where he would attend orchestral concerts.

This concert would surely make the evil bastard writhe in hell. A Montreal Jew of Russian stock, is performing this night. Leonard Cohen.

As you walk towards the stadium, the imposing concrete menace of Nazi architecture stands over you, then you enter the arena walking down 90 or so stairs. We were very lucky with middle seats in Row 3, amongst many friends, Cohen fans from around the world. One young woman, in her early 20s, held my arm saying, “ God, I can’t believe I made it in here. My heart was pounding, tears running down my cheeks, I couldn’t breath, but I’m here! I’m here!” From Israel, she had lost many of her family during the Nazi era and this journey was still terrifying. We drank wine to a better world and sacrifices made.

Then he was there, a little elderly, Jewish gnome, singing “First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin,” in the very heart of Nazi territory. By the time he got to the second chorus, 25,000 Germans (and a sprinkling of interlopers, such as me), were on their feet, singing … “Then we take Berlin!” The significance was lost on no one, everywhere you looked, people were in tears, including me – seven months later, the tears still glisten as I write this. Every time the band reached the chorus line, Cohen, with a huge grin, would remove his hat, stop singing and let the audience go. As he wrote so many years ago … “there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

So as dawn filters through the long white clouds of New Zealand, then streaks across the vast Australian island continent and people gather to hear the Last Post, Anzac Day must be a remembrance of loss, it must never be a celebration of war, but there can be no doubt that individual selfless, physical and emotional sacrifice has brought us a better world.

All Good Things

Greg Ross




Jamie’s Italian … On Queue … A Review

It started with a 40 minute queue on the footpath, although staff came out twice during that period, giving out free tastings of bread and olives etc. Eventually you get to the pointy end, where you’re informed of the waiting time for a table, in our case (four people) one hour. You’re given a choice of waiting at the bar, or going elsewhere, (they’ll call you on the mobile when your table is ready).

We made the mistake of waiting at the bar, where the service was chaotic and beyond slow. It appeared they were short-staffed and staff are still finding their feet. It must be said however, all staff were really pleasant, genuine, cheerful and very helpful, a big step up from the usual Perth restaurant / cafe staff attitude.

The wines and beers are virtually all Italian, so if, like me, you don’t know Italian wines, it’s a bit ‘Hope and Pray.’ They’re a little stingy on the wine pour, but overall the prices per glass are average for the industry – $7.50 – $11.00 per glass and $10.00 for a medium beer. However given the chaos and time taken to get a drink, you’re probably better off popping over to the pub, or bar across the road and let’s be honest, most of these wines, in Europe (where I spend a lot of time) will sell for 2 – 8 Euros a bottle ($4.00 – $11.00), so young Jamie is following a Perth trend here – ripping the customer off for a bottle of wine.

The restaurant décor is concrete basic and extremely noisy, if there was any music, I certainly couldn’t hear it. In reality it’s a large barn seating 300 people, but the ambience is somehow pleasant. As we had been advised, it did take an hour for a table to become available. The staff were really good, you couldn’t help but like them and the menu prices were a very pleasant surprise – entrees at $8.50 – $12.00, mains from $16.50 – $30.00 and deserts at $8.50. Drink service at the table was a vast improvement on the bar service and there was a nice touch with free bread and olive oil, beautifully presented. The food was obviously fresh and varied from “nice but bland” (the Jools special) to “fantastic” (Blue Crab Risotto) and the deserts were excellent taste treats.

In conclusion, this is not the right place for a romantic night, but great for a group of friends looking for a good night out with good quality food, in a fun place, with the best serving staff I’ve seen in Perth – amazing! The food prices make up for the queueing and the wait – allow for the queue factor and plan pre-dinner drinks at a nearby bar, or maybe you could bring your own champaign with you and after you’ve done the queue, drive down to the foreshore for a drink – oh, sorry, it’s Perth, you’ll get arrested for public drinking!. Between the two of us, we had two beers, three glasses of wine, a glass of champaign, a main and a desert each, all for less than $100.00. The cost without the pre-dinner drinks was $64.80 which was very acceptable, but the way the system is, you will spend money on pre-dinner drinks somewhere, so it will inevitably be a $100.00 night for two. It will be interesting to see if the queues drop off in the next few months, at this stage an almost two hour wait for table at a Perth restaurant on a Monday night must be counted as a great business success. 

Rip Off Eating in Perth & Fremantle

We got ‘done’ last night in Freo. Over the last few months, we’ve really come to like the Fish & Chips (we usually get a Fisherman’s Basket) at Sweet Lips down on the foreshore. It’s been offering better value than either Cicerello’s (expensive, fatty), or Kaillis (excellent but very expensive), plus the advantage of BYO.

And these days, from our place in Woodbridge, it’s a 1hr plus drive. But last night, the Fisherman’s Basket was so skimpy, (we estimate half the size of two or three weeks ago, though still the same price $18.95), we ordered some more, – chips and two Crab Cakes. I wish I’d photographed them. They were almost $5.00 each and round shaped, approx 3cms wide and 2cm deep!

We won’t bother with Freo again, like Perth, it’s now a joke. These people are either laughing their boxes off having a lend of us, or they’re paying stupid rents.

I’ve reached the conclusion people in Perth are better off to save the money till they travel overseas and enjoy proper pricing. EG: At many places in Europe (Germany etc), you can get a fantastic fish and chips and dessert with a glass of wine, (or beer) at the Northsea (Nordsee) franchises for 10 euros (A$12.00).

It’s worth checking out FedUpPerth’s Facebook website for info on the rip-offs all over the town, link herewith:

So You Think That You Might Like To Go To The Show?

Greg's Election Day Heroes Gallery

Running as an Independent is incredibly difficult from a logistics point of view - you need volunteers to 'man' each election booth. There were 12 in the Kalamunda Electorate, all of them open for 10 hours, but needing people there from at least 7.00am. Not to mention that each booth needed at least two people . It's simply impossible for the candidate to organise and roster everything, so I was incredibly lucky in that my fellow City Gatekeeper, Hilda Turnbull took over the show in early February, without her, I am certain I could not have coped. Then we get to the people who volunteered, I am so grateful , amazed and humbled at the support, in many cases, from people I had not known before I started campaigning. I'm only sorry that I didn't get elected and couldn't ensure things go as they would wish in the electorate. I don't have a photo of them here, but I'd really like to mention Syd Golding and his lovely wife in Maddington, they rang me early in January and offered space in their front yard for my political signs, not to mention fantastic support. Finally, I have to mention Myles Irvine and his gorgeous girlfriend Mel - just when Ann and I were wondering how on earth we would ever finish delivering the flyers to letterboxes throughout the electorate, they turned up and never stopped! It was a life-saver. And I didn't get an opportunity to photograh Ted, Nikki, Anna and Tonina at the booths, humble apologies! But, here's my Heroes Gallery, to all those on the day, who made a stand for democracy and what they believed in. Words are not enough, nor are photos, but they'll have to do. Cheers and thanks, Greg

[img src=]340Michael, Rosana and Greg
[img src=]10Signs at Kalamunda High School
[img src=]00Keep on Truckin'!
[img src=]10Peter's Van
[img src=]00Peter
[img src=]00Lyn and Ian
[img src=]20Sandy, me and Barry
[img src=]10Harry and Ann
[img src=]10Christina and John
[img src=]00Jim and me
[img src=]00
[img src=]00Glennys
[img src=]00
[img src=]00Mike and Kate
[img src=]10Mike, Kate and me
[img src=]00Gordon ... and the Larrikin
[img src=]00Didn't get a chance to photograph Ted when he looked after a booth with Gordon, but here's me mate as MC at the pubic event I held in Febraury
[img src=]00Tammy
[img src=]00Rosana
[img src=]20Michael and the Campaign circus!
[img src=]00Hilda
[img src=]00It's a landslide!
[img src=]20Ann and Sandy
[img src=]00Watching the results
[img src=]10Myles and Gordon
[img src=]10Exhausted at the Kalamunda RSL Hall
[img src=]20The two of us.

Running as an Independent is incredibly difficult from a logistics point of view – you need volunteers to ‘man’ each election booth. There were 12 in the Kalamunda Electorate, all of them open for 10 hours, but needing people there from at least 7.00am. Not to mention that each booth needed at least two people . It’s simply impossible for the candidate to organise and roster everything, so I was incredibly lucky in that my fellow City Gatekeeper, Hilda Turnbull took over the show in early February, without her, I am certain I could not have coped. Then we get to the people who volunteered, I am so grateful , amazed and humbled at the support, in many cases, from people I had not known before I started campaigning. I’m only sorry that I didn’t get elected and couldn’t ensure things go as they would wish in the electorate. I don’t have a photo of them here, but I’d really like to mention Syd Golding and his lovely wife in Maddington, they rang me early in January and offered space in their front yard for my political signs, not to mention fantastic support. I also didn’t get a chance to photograph, Ted, Nikki, Anna and Tonina at the booths, humble apologies Finally, I have to mention Myles Irvine and his gorgeous girlfriend Mel – just when Ann and I were wondering how on earth we would ever finish delivering the flyers to letterboxes throughout the electorate, they turned up and never stopped! It was a life-saver. So here’s my Heroes Gallery, to all those on the day, who made a stand for democracy and what they believed in. Words are not enough, nor are photos, but they’ll have to do.

The Trials of a Battle-Scarred First Time Independent

If you’ve ever wanted to put your life on hold, slip deep into debt, be rejected, exhausted, ejected from shopping centres, face emailed demands about your opinions from strangers, fend off single interest groups demanding simple Yes / No answers to complex questions, or fight to get any publicity, try running as an Independent candidate.

Seven months ago, I made the decision to run for the seat of Kalamunda, since then, there’ve been five months of intense campaigning and now, two weeks since the election, I’ve only just found the strength and interest to talk of the experience and more importantly, thank the wonderful people who supported me, without whom I could not possibly have survived the gruelling process.

What to make of it all? I suspect the real long-term lessons, and possible benefits, (I can see none at this point in time), are not yet apparent and quite possibly I will see some aspects differently in the months ahead, but this is the tale so far.

When I was first asked by fellow City Gatekeepers, back in May 2012, if I’d consider running as an Independent, my analysis was I would need to stop work and spend five to six months building up a profile and the combined cost of living and campaigning would be around $50,000.00, money I simply didn’t have. One of the people urging me to run agreed to fund the money required, on the basis that I would also try to secure other donations in order to bring his cost down. It seemed possible, even feasible, so I quit my job and headed out for the great unknown – the winding, treacherous, uncharted, financially disastrous road of an Independent candidate.

I’d agreed to stand for the electorate of Kalamunda, against a sitting Minister (John Day) in a relatively safe Liberal seat, in protest at the Liberal government’s plans for the Elizabeth Quay waterfront project, the closing of the emergency lanes in the Northbridge Tunnel, forced council amalgamations and the Development Assessment Panels, (which cleverly take planning decisions away from local communities). There was also a strong wish to protest at Colin Barnett’s arrogant approach to anybody who disagreed with him on anything.

And so I set about studying the electorate. What I discovered, was that people thought John Day was arrogant, distant and had done nothing for the electorate. Nobody hated him, rather they just felt he’d been there too long and that he and the Liberal Party took the seat for granted. I was told this time and time again.

The other thing I very quickly became aware of, was how toxic the local Kalamunda Shire Council was with the electorate. Words like “corrupt,” “useless”, “hopeless” were thrown at me several times every day. Indeed, when I organised a public forum to inform people about the Liberal government’s plans for forced council amalgamations and DAPs, the questions from the audience were not about those issues, rather aimed squarely at me, asking what I’d do about the council if I was elected. Here I was standing on a ticket of no forced council amalgamations, in an electorate where they hated their council and actually thought they’d be better off with a bigger, more professional council. Alarm bells were ringing for me, indeed they had been for some time.

We live in Woodbridge, part of the Midland electorate – I didn’t see that as a disadvantage as John Day also has a house here, although in reality he lives in Cottesloe. I was well aware of how neglected Midland was – even the much vaunted Midland Railway Workshops precinct, where we live, has been a stalled project for over 12 months. The Liberal Party had no real interest in the area, as a safe Labor seat and I’d long been of the opinion that the Labor member, Michelle Roberts, had been coasting for years. By late November, I told Ann and other friends that I should really stand as an Independent for Midland, as I felt there was a mood and need for change. By mid December, I was certain of it, but my major campaign donor wanted me to run for Kalamunda, not Midland and I’d given my word. I will go to my grave regretting not running as an Independent for Midland.

The question of who else would run for Kalamunda was vital, as the only chance I would have of getting anywhere would be on Preferences. I knew that a local councillor, Geoff Stallard, had been a long-term Labor candidate and had come very close (76 votes!) to unseating John Day in the last Geoff Gallop election, but the train wreck that was Alan Carpenter had dropped him in favour of a younger, female candidate – Carpenter had form there! I also knew Labor wanted Stallard to rejoin the party and run as their candidate. They felt that if he ran as the Labor candidate and I ran a strong campaign, with Greens and my preferences, he’d have a good chance of taking the seat. As much as I wanted to win the seat myself, the main aim was to unseat John Day and teach Barnett a lesson, so if Stallard ran as the Labor candidate, I was willing to carry on, although I might not have spent quite the time, energy and money I did.

However, Stallard’s wounds were too deep – when Carpenter had refused to endorse him for Kalamunda, Stallard had asked for Forrestfield, but a union demanded their man (Andrew Waddell) was chosen, so the local bloke, who’d almost unseated John Day, was dropped. Geoff decided to run as an Independent for 2013, which made my run more difficult. Again, my gut instinct was to run for Midland, but morally, I couldn’t make the move. And just to rub metaphorical salt in, three months into the campaign, my donor appeared to get cold feet and explained there was a misunderstanding the figures and I would need to borrow anything I needed over $30,000. I knew the sensible decision was to immediately pull out, but it would have been a morally bankrupt decision, so in spite of severe misgivings, I kept going. Morals and politics, how naive is that??

The Labor party then announced the Deputy Mayor of Swan, Mick Wainwright, would run as their candidate for Kalamunda (his brother runs Michelle Robert’s office). We met for a coffee and it’s probably fair to say, neither Mick nor I were impressed with or interested in the other. I also met with Geoff Stallard and liked him, but the surprise for me, was how much I liked the long-term Greens candidate, Toni Warden, ethically and as a person.

The Kalamunda electorate boundaries are a perfect example of political bastardy. Set up by the Labor Party to try and unseat John Day, the electorate includes most of Maddington, much to the surprise of Maddington and Kalamunda people. A Kalamunda councillor, Frank Lindsey, part of Geoff Stallard’s team, at one stage emailed me to tell me to “Stay on message” (his regular phone calls and emails to me are another story in themselves) and not talk about issues facing people in Maddington, he seemed completely oblivious to the difference between the Shire and State electorate boundaries. And Maddington people would forcefully argue they were not in the Kalamunda electorate – I’d have to show them the electoral map on my flyer. The result for Maddington has been that neither the Liberal, nor Labor parties are remotely interested in them, as is obvious when you drive around. The needs and interests of people in the leafy hills area, compared to the people on the suburban flats, with a burgeoning migrant population, are very, very different. It’s a travesty that I became more and more interested in trying to do something about. Although the local Maddington shopping centre owner didn’t see it that way – he told me to leave his property, where I was handing out flyers outside the entrance, telling me only John Day could come there.

The local newspapers were interesting. There are basically three covering the electorate – Community Newspapers with six different issues, Echo Newspapers with two different issues and The Examiner newspaper (Maddington specific). Placing advertising was very easy, although everything had to be paid for up front, however editorial was virtually impossible – absolutely in terms of the Echo newspaper, a very strong supporter of John Day and the Liberal Party. Community Newspapers made no mention of me, to the best of my knowledge, however the Examiner did run a story which resonated with people. Both Community Newspapers and the Examiner were excellent in terms of ad placement (right hand pages etc). The Echo people went out of their way to make life difficult – right hand pages and EGN requests etc, were impossible and it became obvious my ads weren’t really welcome, so I stayed with Community Newspapers and the Examiner, plus I ran a couple of ads in the monthly Darlington Review, although the editor of that august publication took freezing umbrage at a joke I made about Troy Buswell. Funnily enough, Darlington was the only place where I felt I wasn’t welcome, yet as an actor, writer and photographer, it was the one place I expected to feel most at home. Looking back, I was deep in true-blue Liberal territory, I just hadn’t realised it.

In terms of big mainstream media, it’s almost impossible for an Independent (unless you deliberately court controversy) to get any coverage. ABC 720 proved the champion of the Labor party, with long plugs for Labor candidates, to a lesser extent the Greens and coverage for any Liberal candidate Barnett allowed to speak, but anybody else didn’t exist for dear old Aunty. Unexpectedly, Paul Murray and Jane Marwick on 6PR gave me some excellent time and I began listening to their programmes, to the point where I’ve now stopped a 30 year history of listening only to 720 and switched to 6PR, although I still can’t do Howard Sattler, as much as I wish him well with his health. Jane has even done the impossible and made afternoon radio interesting for blokes.

I was also very grateful for the opportunity Allen Newton from WA Today gave me, running an opinion piece I had written. I didn’t expect anything from The West, or the Sunday Times, however a video I’d made on the future conversion of the Northbidge Tunnel into three lanes suddenly came alive and I did score a very brief mention in a major EGN story in the West. They got my name wrong the following day, but didn’t bother correcting it. That same story lead to television coverage and interviews with 9, 7 and 10, I don’t think ABC TV went near it. However the ABC 7.30 Report did run a story on a long-running aged care saga out Wattle Grove way, which I consider helped cement Labor’s fate in Forrestfield.

A Wattle Grove land owner developer had long wanted to build a retirement village / nursing home facility on his land, but although the Kalamunda Council was very supportive, local residents weren’t and had fought a long, hard, at times bitter campaign against it, culminating in the Minister for Planning’s (John Day) department declaring the project totally unsuitable for a plethora of reasons. John Day eventually had no choice but to can the project in late 2012, setting himself against the council, in particular, Councillor Geoff Stallard. Geoff appeared on the 7.30 Report, arguing against John Day’s decision, as did the developer and a very public spirited nurse. Both the Greens candidate (Toni Warden) and myself supported John Day’s decision, but the Labor candidate, Mick Wainwright, stated Day was wrong and the nursing home should have been approved.

Within hours, I knew his statement was the Kiss of Death for Waddell, Labor’s Forrestfield member. The Wattle Grove action group had been in touch with me several times, giving me background details and straight after the programme, it was made clear to me they would be advising their members to vote Liberal, not Labor. It wasn’t my electorate so it didn’t worry me, but I was certain Wainwright had ruined any chance Waddell might have had. It also serves as another example of how confused issues become crossing over Shire and State electoral boundaries – in state electoral terms, this was a Forrestfield issue, not a Kalamunda issue. As a postscript to the story, both the developer and the nurse were active in Geoff Stallard’s campaign, including handing out How to Vote cards at polling booths.

On to Social Media, Facebook, Twitter, websites and community television. There was no way I could afford any advertising on mainstream commercial television, so I gave consideration to the one community station, WTV, although I’d never watched it. We negotiated what I felt was a very good deal – they would make a series of 30 second ads for me and schedule them constantly over the three months leading up to the election, plus make them available for me on YouTube, so I could post the links on my website and political Facebook site. I still never cease to be amazed at how many people, from all walks of life, saw those ads. I’m a marketing, advertising man, but I still cannot believe the reach of the station. I might not have been elected, but those ads were seen by people all over the metro area. WTV also started a political programme called Shadow Boxing and I became the first person interviewed, the programme continues and is very interesting television for anyone interested in local politics. I then made a suggestion to WTV management that they consider running a Town Hall debate, as the ABC TV Leaders Debate was basically scripted controlled nonsense, with no input from voters. The ABC 720 Transport Forum was the same, tightly scripted, controlled by journalists with no input from the public or audience.

They liked the idea and ran with it, but effectively the only conclusion you could come to, is that Perth people are almost completely disconnected from and disinterested in politics. The Liberal party pointedly refused to be involved – the station had invited Colin Barnett and Mark McGowan to appear, but as soon as Barnett refused, McGowan bowed out. A week before the Town Hall debate, we found out Barnett and McGowan had quietly agreed to attend a private audience with Christian Leaders that same night.

Certainly there were some low-profile candidates such as myself, but there were two high profile panellists – Ken Travers (Labor) and Lynn MacLaren (Greens), plus Kevin Morgan (Mayor of Cottesloe and Independent Candidate for Cottesloe). The event was free, anybody could ask questions, nothing was scripted. You’d think, as the first real old style town hall debate for years, people would be interested. But no, about 20 people turned up. It was shown live to air, has since been repeated and is now available on the internet, but you’d have to say it was a resounding failure. Having said that, I found it fascinating, I learnt a lot about myself and really enjoyed the process, not to mention a little black humour. In answers to a couple of questions, I’d been supportive of gay people and said that I was Agnostic. Then a representative from the United Motorcycle Association asked about planned association laws, I said I wasn’t in favour of them. The bloke introduced himself afterwards, as a member of the Gypsy Jokers. We laughed on the way home, realising we’d probably lost the Christian vote, but gained the Bikies. Hmm.

As the campaign rolled on, it was increasingly obvious, neither of the two major parties were keen on their candidates engaging with the voters – Barnett was virtually a one man band, with occasional public forays by Troy Buswell, while Labor trotted out McGowan, Ben Wyatt and Ken Travers. But where was Quigley, the human volcano? And where were both parties new candidates? Which segues into Social Media – Facebook, Twitter and websites.

I’d followed Barrack Obama’s campaign on the web and still receive daily update emails, all of which helped form my opinion that a strong social media presence was a pre-requisite to campaigning. How wrong I was. Apart from a couple of obvious ‘stooge attack’ Twitter accounts run on their behalf, the Liberal Party had no social media presence. Labor did, the Greens slightly less so and the websites of the the big three – Liberal, Labor and Greens – were strangely cold and bland.

I played the game, believing Social Media was increasingly important. The results speak for themselves. Barnett was devastatingly correct in his assumption that voters were not remotely interested in either personal or internet contact with candidates. I still think a website is a must as part of the mix, for any candidate or business, but Facebook and Twitter, in an Australian political context, are just vanity tools for people to prove how clever and relevant they are. I’m a long-term Facebook user in private, but I dropped my political page the day after the election. I’ve kept Twitter going, as I rather enjoy it, (see vanity tools above), but neither is of any use in the current Australian political climate. Given the results of this election, the sooner we cut costs, campaigns and personalities out of the equation and stop boring voters with flyers and ads, we can then introduce simplified cheaper on-line voting and voters can get back to doing what interests them.

Back to the streets and the battle I imagined was running. For much of the last five months, there were just two of us – my finance Ann and me. Our personal life more or less ground to a halt, but without her nothing would have been possible, we were (and are) a team – she built the website, bullied me into doing the things I instinctively procrastinate about and walked virtually every street in the electorate with me, helping deliver political flyers. Some days it was 41c, most were over 30c, the terrain is often as steep as the Rhine and the electorate spread out, over 100kms in circumference (where it’s not forest). By day’s end, we would collapse exhausted and sunburnt at home, but every night there were constant demands – emails and phone calls to reply to.

The next morning, back to the hard slog, walking, driving, door knocking, letter box dropping, talking, at times thinking “What am I doing?” Usually as somebody stared right through you and said “No thank you,” or “Na, you’re all fucking crooks!” However, a picture did emerge (false as it turned out) of disaffected Liberal voters. It seemed from their comments, that they hadn’t dropped their Liberal principles, they just felt John Day had ignored them and they didn’t much care for Barnett. I also began to gather support, people who agreed with me and also offered to help man booths on election day. These were people I had never met, who’d emailed, or phoned, or even stopped me in the street to talk. Down Maddington way, I’d be walking along the streets and people would call out “Go Greg” from their cars, truck drivers would wave and blow their air horns. It seemed something was in the air.

And the opposition turned the heat up. No, not John Day. In fact we had a very pleasant chat in Kalamunda’s main street one Saturday morning, rather with Geoff Stallard’s campaign man. Frank Lindsey began appearing on my Facebook site, wrongly correcting me and taking voters to task over issues, while Mick Wainwright’s campaign man, his brother Steve, was annoyed with comments I’d made about Labor’s stance on Forced Amalgamations and wanted me to notify my followers of Labor’s unpublicised decision not to force council amalgamations. Then the Greens’ Toni Wadren contacted me, re a fairly vicious email that had been sent out painting me as a Liberal Stooge. The same person behind the email had earlier rung the Labor Party expressing outrage that I was actually a National Party person and they had to combine forces against me. I knew where that had come from, the wonderful Hilda Turnbull, a fellow City Gatekeeper and retired long serving National MP, had thankfully begun to take a real hands-on interest and was organising my booths etc. It seems her presence at the Kalamunda public meeting had created a mini storm. One tale of the night must be told, after the meeting had finished, Geoff Stallard, not realising who Hilda was, expressed his anger and dismay at the Nationals “dreadful Royalties for Regions” programme. She politely replied that she had a slightly different point of view.

The election day drew nigh and I started to believe there was just a possibility that the dissatisfaction with John Day might prove interesting and that although Geoff Stallard undoubtedly had a strong following amongst the Lesmurdie Catholic community, I felt his role in the almost universally disliked Kalamunda Council would not help him. I also felt he would split the Labor vote, as their candidate was not registering well with voters. I felt the Greens would get their usual 2,000 – 2,500 votes, although I was well aware support for the Greens was on the wane across Australia.

Preferencing took over as the Main Game. Both Geoff and I understood very early on that we had to place each other second and we both stood by the gentlemen’s agreement. I discovered the Greens had placed me second. It hit the fan between the Stallard camp and the Greens, as he’d expected second place, not fifth! Geoff placed Labor third, whilst I put Greens third, John Day fourth and Labor fifth. Geoff of course didn’t want to offend his traditional Labor voters and I didn’t want to make things too hard for disaffected Liberal voters.

And so the games began. Hilda had virtually every booth covered with some absolutely wonderful people, I will never forget the support they gave me.The only booth we couldn’t cover all day was one small shared polling booth, with just 300 voters, although we had somebody there until midday.

My role was to drive around from booth to booth, making sure everyone had everything they needed. I was very pleasantly surprised to find people at the booths getting along very well, regardless of who they were handing out How to Vote cards for. In fact John Day’s daughter was kind enough to take a picture of me and friends up at Carmel Hall. The only stressful time had been around 6.00am at East Maddington, where a very aggressive Liberal bloke was insistent that nobody else could put up any posters or signs, only the Liberals had the right to do so. I let the truckie in me off the chain and things quickly settled. But that was the only incident I was aware of.

By 10.30am, the two central Kalamunda booths were reporting voters were all Liberal, with some voting Geoff Stallard, while I did seem to be making some headway in Maddington. Toni Wadren’s words of a couple of weeks previous began to resonate – “Greg, don’t be disappointed, I’ve run and lived up here for a long while. They all moan and groan about John Day, but on the day, they can’t bring themselves not to vote Liberal. Afterwards, they’ll look you straight in the face, shake their heads and says they don’t understand how he got back in.” By 11.30am, I was sure she was right, in fact from the reports I was getting, it was a Liberal landslide.

That evening, friends and supporters kept asking me how I felt. I wasn’t angry, sad, humiliated, or sorry, I just felt annoyed with myself, that I’d wasted so much time, money and energy and not followed my gut instincts re Midland. I was stunned at the size of the Liberal landslide, shocked at John Hyde’s loss and really surprised to see Max Hipkins had come nowhere in Nedlands. But most of all, I was exhausted. Locking the gates of the Kalamunda RSL, we drove around to where I had signs up, took them all down and drove home, both of us completely shattered emotionally and physically.

The next morning, I took a strange pleasure in removing all the stickers and signs off the car and trailer as soon as possible, but then, for the next two weeks, apart from answering a couple of hate emails, I didn’t want anything to do with politics.

My conclusions? I was right about two things – the Greens were on the wane and Midland was there for the taking. I got the mood of the Kalamunda electorate completely wrong, it is blue blood Liberal party territory, although I do think the state of the Kalamunda Shire Council ruined my message about forced amalgamations – most Kalamunda voters think it would be preferable to what they’ve got. Labor ran a second rate campaign and Geoff Stallard definitely split the Labor vote. I think he made a huge mistake in refusing Labor’s advances, if he’d run as the their candidate, with preferences, he would once again have come very close to unseating John Day, in spite of his council connections.

As a society, we have very definitely moved to the right, almost a seismic shift. Perhaps it’s because of the on-going toxic federal Parliament, there’s no doubt Federal Labor has been diabolically stupid in its handling of the Mining Tax and Barnett very cleverly played the “Us against Them”, State vs Canberra card over the last four years. Public perception of the Greens has altered with Christine Milne taking over as leader, her acerbic, lecturing, self-righteous image is far less acceptable to people than the charismatic, media savvy Bob Brown. The Murdoch press in particular has been relentless in its attack on the Federal Independents, as a result, I suspect voters currently don’t see a role for Independents. All of which seems to prove that in WA at least, it’s now very hard to separate State and Federal politics – in voters minds, they are the same.

I don’t think I’d do it again, or advise anybody else to run as an Independent, so far I can’t see a single personal benefit – well, I did lose 9kgs! But, I do have a niggling feeling that I could and should do more for the people of Maddington, I suspect they were beginning to want me, whereas the Hills people didn’t. Then there’s Midland, Labor deserved the kick in the backside the voters gave them. I wish I’d run, to make sure the Liberal government turned it’s attention to Midland, which will of course include Kalamunda, when it is swallowed up into the Midland Super Council later this year. Now there’s a thought, I could run for the new council!

Greg Ross

Kalamunda Public Forum TV Programme on YouTube (in two parts)

The recent Kalamunda Public Forum, held at the Kalamunda Performing Arts Centre, was filmed by WTC Ch. 44 and went to air on Wednesday 20th February. For those who could not attend, or were unable to watch the programme, it has now been uploaded to YouTube in two parts. The links are provided below and I hope you find the information useful. I would like to thank the guest speakers, Dr Linley Lutton, Dr Beth Schultz AO, Colin Latchem and Ken Eastwood AM, plus my long term great mate Ted Bull for offering to MC the night and help inform Kalamunda people. I’m also very pleased that the various Kalamunda Shire Councillors present found the night informative, to the point where they have invited one of the guest speakers to address the councillors.

 First Half of programme

 Second Half of Programme


E Letter from State of Siege Director, Dennis Grosvenor

Dennis Grosvenor is best known to Australians as an actor, however more recently, he found his beloved Ku-ring-gai (Sydney) suburb under sustained threat from developers in bed with government (State and Local).  Realising what was happening, with the local community shut out of any say in what development took place, he started filming. It developed into a full scale investigation of behind the scenes developer / government negotiations.

Titled ‘State of Siege’ it serves as a salutary lesson for all of us, as Western Australia is forced headlong down the same path, with forced amalgamations and Development Assessment  Panels (DAPs). Dennis was over here for a week to talk at public screenings of the film and I showed an excerpt at the recent Kalamunda Public Meeting.

I received the following email from Dennis this weekend and thought I would share it with you:

 Hello Greg

It was good to have another Independent at the first WA screening of State Of Siege.

I fully support your stance and decision to run as a genuine Independent. The rise of Independents concerned with the erosion of the environment  both built and natural is a positive sign for the nation as a whole.

It’s encouraging that people are now starting to see the other side of the development debate, which is the whittling away of our  freedoms at the behest of the development lobby and other powerful groups, all of whom wield too much “undue influence” on the Parliament.

What I found interesting while mingling with the audience after the screenings was the cross fertilisation and interaction of candidates of varying socio-economic and political backgrounds, all of whom were standing against the two major parties.

This is a lesson the rest of the country could learn from.

Also good to learn the Greens are giving you their preferences.

The power dynamic in the Parliament has to be changed, as I said during my WTV interview the older parties have become corporate entities, they no longer represent the people.

A warning on amalgamation…

The problem with a local government area like Ku-ring-gai NSW, is that it is too large and unwieldy. As such the Council thought it could do a Chamberlainesque appeasement deal with the government and apportion off far flung edges of the municipality for high-rise development – thereby getting the State government off its back.

Of course once the government got its teeth into one section of the municipality, it continued on, it was the “Wedge” and the rest is the sorry history spelt out in my film.

Thanks for taking an interest in State Of Siege.

I wish you well for 9 March.


I have a DVD of the film and I’m very willing to lend it to interested people. Here are two relevant links:

State Of Siege webpage:

Web streaming link:


Kalamunda Forum Event is Cover Story in Kalamunda Echo

The cover story in today’s Kalamunda Echo features the community forum I organised for the people of Kalamunda last week. Interesting to see Councillor Geoff Stallard, also running as an Independent, jump on the bandwagon – better late than never. And I see the Labor candidate the Deputy Mayor of Swan, also feels he against it, which puzzled me, as many of us felt Labor was in favour of forced amalgamations and the hideous Development Assessment Panels, however after this was written, a Labor person assured me that although Labor supports  amalgamations, they don’t want to force them. he was hazy on DAPs. John Day and the Liberals of course, would far rather you didn’t know or talk about it.

Who are you going to vote for:

  • Your current political representative?
  • A councillor who’s only just realised what could happen?
  • Labor, who seem to have made a very sudden back-flip on forced amalgamations, but are very quiet on DAPs?
  • Or a true Independent who brings matters to your attention?

Kalamunda Echo Story 1 22 Feb 001

Kalamunda Forum Review

The Kalamunda Public Forum (Tue 12th Feb) has been praised as a success, with a turn-out of just under 100 people, in oppressive heat and humidity. Several councillors in attendance were impressed enough to ask the guest speakers to meet with the council to discuss the implications of Colin Barnett’s and John Day’s Development Assessment Panels and looming forced amalgamations.

We are receiving calls from people who could not attend and are seeking transcripts and information. The event was filmed by WTV Ch 44 and will be broadcast in it’s edited entirety at a yet to be announced time slot next week and also as featured excerpts accompanying the showing of “State of Siege” the Dennis Grosvenor film about cosy government and developers at work in NSW.

State of Siege is a must-see for anyone concerned at the direction Colin Barnett and John Day are taking this state, removing planning power from local communities. It will be shown at 9.00pm on Saturday 16th February on WTV Ch 44 (you must have digital reception to view Ch 44). It will then be repeated on Friday 8th March at 6.00pm – the day before the elections and coincidentally, my birthday!

The edited Kalamunda Forum will be screened on WTV Ch 44 Wednesday 20th February at 8.30pm. After it’s been to air, it will be available as a YouTube link and I’ll post the link here.

I would like to thank my guest speakers, Dr Linley Lutton, Dr Beth Schultz AO, Colin Latchem and Ken Eastwood AM and my great much-loved mate Ted Bull for acting as MC. Also, may I please add my gratitude to all of you for attending and very grateful thanks to those members of the audience who not only collectively donated almost $400.00 towards the cost of the evening, but also volunteered to man polling booths for me on Election Day. Ann and I are genuinely very humbled at the level of support, thank you so much. 

Kalamunda Forum

[img src=]30Ted Bull & Greg Ross
[img src=]00The Panel (L-R) Ken Eastwood, Dr Linley Lutton, Dr Beth Schultz, Colin Latchem
[img src=]00Some of the audience
[img src=]00MC Ted Bull
[img src=]00Dr Linley Lutton
[img src=]00
[img src=]00Dr Beth Schultz
[img src=]00
[img src=]00
[img src=]00
[img src=]00Colin Latchem
[img src=]00
[img src=]00The horrific planned Midland Super Council Barnett & Day plan to force on the people of Kalamunda
[img src=]00Ken Eastwood
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[img src=]00Neil Kidd, who has just found out he will lose his views at his Burswood luxury apartment, due to Barnett and Days' back-room deal with PacKer to destroy the public golf course and build a hotel in front of the apartments
[img src=]00Answering questions from the audience
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[img src=]00It's a Perfect Storm , time to give control back to the voters, make Saturday March 9th INDEPENDENTS' DAY!

Greg Ross & City Gatekeepers Vindicated on Issue of Tunnel Emergency Lanes

I have been criticised by some people and contradicted by the Minister for Planning, John Day, for my video clip showing and explaining the madness of removing the existing Emergency Lanes in the Northbridge Tunnel, all to cater for the Premier’s Waterfront vanity project, which will include the virtual destruction of Riverside Drive as a major arterial / tourist access route across the city.

It is only three days ago, (Monday 28th January) I spoke with Jane Marwick about this issue, indeed John Day rang at the end of the segment to tell people I was wrong.

In the name of sanity road safety and the voters of Western Australia, I demand that John Day, Colin Barnett and Troy Buswell  rethink an act of ill-considered planning and keep the emergency lanes in the Tunnel. They are wilfully wrong.

I  have attached links to the ABC report on the coroner’s finding, the 6PR interview (unfortunately only part of the interview is on-line) and the Tunnel video.

The ABC Report on the Coroner’s Finding

The City Gatekeeper’s Video

Greg Ross Interview with Jane Marwick

For further information, please contact me here.