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The Magpie

Saturday, May 31st, 2014   |   77 comments

We get our first peek at how The Astonisher is faring with digital subscriptions … the latest circulation figures might explain why another five staff have been sacked this week.

We also look at a star-struck Mayor Mullet’s failed attempt at urbanisation … Hey, folks it’s only a game, but the Astonisher via the Courier Mail has suggested that one of the victorious NSW Blues players is a cross-dressing drag queen …

And Barnaby Joyce gets Quote of the Week, and perhaps appropriately, it involved a farmyard animal.

At a Canberra hearing ABC boss Mark Scott suggested that because of the proposed budget cuts to the ABC, popular programs might have to go, including the wildly popular toddler’s TV cartoon Peppa Pig.

As is their way, the ‘medja’ decided this was the stuff for deep interrogation of everybody within sight.

Barbaby Joyce

Barbaby Joyce

They didn’t get far with our boy Barnaby though. When asked if he thought Peppa Pig would disappear, a genuinely bemused Joyce said ‘The last time I had Peppa Pig, it was number 23 (on the menu) at my local Thai restaurant.’  End of interview.

Canberra remains in the grip of Palmeritis, with no one quite sure how to handle The Blimp. And during the week, he was seen having a little evening tryst with Wingnut Abbott’s likely leadership rival, Malcolm Turnbull. ‘Nothing in it, it wasn’t lobbying’ was the brush given to inquiring media.

And Bentley agrees, nothing in it at all.

peking duck

Memo to self: must ask Bentley just what are those two objects are on the table in front of Clive.

Still in Canberra but on a more serious note, Herbert MP Ewen Jones may well be a dud politician, but he certainly has proved he isn’t a dud as a person.

Ewen Jones - a brave effort.

Ewen Jones – a brave effort.

He showed guts in his parliamentary speech during a debate about mental health, detailing his own wrestle with ‘the black dog’ of depression and anxiety. He bared his soul, speaking frankly about his condition, the effect it had on his family and the love and support they afforded him even when he wasn’t, by his own admission, all that lovable, and making the point that depression can be overcome.  It was a relevant speech under the circumstances, with no political dog-whistling or smart-arsery which we’ve become used to from all politicians.

Ewen is to be congratulated on his courage. The ‘Pie will continue to be free with comment about the undoubted vagaries of Jones the Politician, but will henceforth have more regard for Jones the Person.

The irony is that this subject for debate came up from a government whose policies on just about everything, from students, pensioners, the jobless with no jobs for them to get and the halt and the lame, will soon have us all gulping anti-depressants by the fistful … if we can afford them.

But if you wanted to be entertained by dopey politics, you need not have strayed far from our own fair environs in the ‘Ville.

The ‘Pie can now EXCLUSIVELY REVEAL (that got your attention, Simpo) the farcical story behind that $10,000 mural the Townsville Council has commissioned in the CBD. It is a classic example of that well known political phenomenon ‘A Step Too Far’

The story goes something like this.

Jenny Mayor Mullet Hill

Jenny Mayor Mullet Hill

There was a bit of spare cash left over from another council project … a newly designated off-leash dog park that came in under budget, it is said … and Mayor Mullet spotted an opportunity for a bit of grandstanding.

So the idea of the mural was born.

And nothing much wrong with that, fairly standard fare, the ten grand going to the selected street artist (including art workshops) no big deal in the scheme of things.

But things started to go Mullet-shaped when a noble-sounding rider was attached to the project: the subject had to be someone who had close ties to Townsville. That’s when things went from Mullet-shaped to bizarre, and the choice of Mr Nicole Kidman was announced as the subject.

And who came up with little piece weirdery? None other than our mayor.

Keith Urban

Keith Urban

Kiwi-born Keith Urban? Had there been some sort of public survey on the most suitable subject for the mural, there seems no doubt that not one in every 50 replies would be Keith Urban. Even Kris Kristofferson would have better choice, not only having played here at least twice but he hails from Brownsville in Texas, which gives him a (perhaps less flattering) connection to Townsville through our hated historic nickname.

The ‘Pie need not detail the idiocy of this choice, although even that might have gone unremarked except for that Step Too Far – the requirement for a Townsville connection. And you can bet that that connection was popped in there to allow Mayor Mullet some air time on the good news front, a photo op with the warbler himself and just maybe an invite from Nikky to pop around for a cuppa and an iced Vo-Vo next time the mayor was in Sydney (where Mr Urban has his most arguable although tenuous current Australian connection. And even then, maybe not for long, there are rumours of divorce in the air, Nicole pissed off that he isn’t around much of late).

Now, it is well known that Mayor Mullet is a strange old political prune on occasions, and the transparency of this mural mis-promotion was certainly one of those occasions. There were howls of laughter and outrage in equal proportions, and the whole issue of mural subject matter is now back with the council for a much-needed rethink. But if all you other councillors are smugly smiling while reading this, where the bloody hell were you when this daft idea was first floated? It should’ve been knocked on the head tout bloody suite.

The whole thing has made us yet again look like Clownsville. Maybe the mural should be of Ronald Macdonald.

Harrumph … moving on.


For the first time, official newspaper circulation figures for the Townsville Bulletin include digital subscriptions. This area is the great hope of newspapers everywhere, and some are making a fair fist of it.

But on both the print circulation figures and the digital take-up, the Townsville Bulletin sadly continues to be pretty much a basket case. The print figures show that Monday to Friday, the paper is down 4.6% for the past year, selling 22,122 copies on average. Saturday is the train wreck, though, losing a whopping double digit 10.2% in the past 12 months, now managing to flog just 32,442 papers. on the weekend.

This audited figures make the new survey crowd emma (Enhanced Media metric Australia) readership data look even more doubtful, and the first look at the digital take-up just adds to the gloom. On weekdays, the Bulletin has convinced just 1707 people to fork over their $30 a month for the full PDF version. Saturday’s is hardly better, with 1719 digital subscribers. (Incidentally, you can get the New York Times, one of the world’s top three papers, for just $15AUS per month. But then, the NYT doesn’t carry many pun-laden stories about  goats on Castle Hill or murals of out-of-towners in our laneways.)

The ‘Pie is told the five Astonisher staff who got the bullet this week were from the advertising side of the paper. You know things are crook in a paper when advertising staff  are shunted.

If News Corp cared anymore, a certain caption writer down at the Curios Snail won’t lose his job, but is sorely in need of some footwear counselling.

Blues player Josh Reynolds had a charge over his part in the scary tackle on Brett Tate in Wednesday’s Origin match downgraded, thus being eligible to play in the next two interstate games.

But there was something wrong with either the caption, or Bulldogs star Reynold’s sartorial sense when we got this …

Screen shot 2014-05-30 at 8.44.59 AM

Sydney Morning Herald reporter Michael Carayannis wasn’t fooled by any cunning disguise with which Reynolds apparently fooled News Corpse.

He reported: ‘Reynolds did not speak after the hearing but stood beside Bulldogs chief executive Raelene Castle, who said the club had considered requesting an extension to fight the charge, given the short preparation.

Ms Castle is obviously not one to toyed with. Asked if Queenslanders might cry conspiracy, she smiled sweetly and said ‘They can just keep crying’.  Still two games to go.

Finally, a couple of videos out of left field, as they say.

The subject of obesity looms large nowadays, but if you thought Clive Palmer’s ‘twerking’ was a thin man trying to escape from inside a fat man, have a look at this vision. A beer belly is no impediment to keeping up with the Slim Jims of this world if you’re keen enough. The ‘Pie challenges you not to laugh – the old  bird’s daughter, who found this gem, said she almost did herself a mischief watching it – it’s kind of hypnotic – and he ain’t bad either.

Enough now, it’s away to Poseurs’ Bar, where The Pie will avail himself of their latest piece of bar wizardry, a magnificent machine for opening wine bottles that still have corks. It guarantees one thing – by the time you’ve golt your drink, you’re sure bloody thirsty … have a look here.

The Magpie's Nest is now more than five years old, and remains an independent alternative voice for Townsville. The weekly warble is a labour of love and takes a lot of time to put together. So if you like your weekly load of old cobblers, you can help keep it aloft with a donation, or even a regular voluntary subscription. Paypal is at the ready, it's as easy as ... well, easy as pie. Limited advertising space is also available.

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