Canberra Confidential. A review

By 14 March, 2013 32

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Canberra Confidential screened on the ABC tonight and you can watch it via that link or soon enough on iview.

For the purposes of disclosure I should note I got a Burmese curry out of it to share my ideas on stories they could include, and I was invited to a preview screening at the National Museum last week but had other things to do. While I doubt she remembers my name; over a decade ago Annabel Crabb and I used to sneak out of our press gallery offices and find ourselves at the same press conferences of visiting world leaders that it appeared no one else in the Canberra Gallery could take the time out of party gossip to make it to. (I once ended up asking Mikhail Gorbachev questions due to being one of very few non-cameraman or sound techs in the room).

After the preview screening last week the ruling elites of Canberra took to Twitter to howl they had once again been done down by cliche.

It’s true that if you’re a very keen student of local and Australian politicial history there’s not much new in there.

As well they used some really flimsy material early to smear conservative leaders, to balance the weightier Labor scandals.

But while those who walk the corridors of power will be on nodding terms with these scandals the rest of the population probably will come at it for the first time.

Which is no bad thing.

Annabel does come across as far too twee at times. But she is a journalist and not an actress.

And the conclusions that Canberra is becoming a fortress of secrets, because that’s what Australia wants us to be, bears some thinking about.

(Also the establishing shots of the landscape are really nicely done and show off what little remains of the Griffin legacy use of the landscape)

Well worth a watch.

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32 Responses to Canberra Confidential. A review
#1
poetix10:01 pm, 14 Mar 13

Mikhail Gorbachev, not Michael. And that’s a shocking story; that so very few people turned up to interview him.

#2
dpm10:36 pm, 14 Mar 13

poetix said :

Mikhail Gorbachev, not Michael. And that’s a shocking story; that so very few people turned up to interview him.

I like how your corrections always include an additional ‘value add’ comment or two to the thread! So much nicer than your standard grammar/spelling nazi! :-)

#3
Masquara10:51 pm, 14 Mar 13

Really enjoyed tonight’s episode having come in a little way in so I’m not sure whether it was the first. Annabel seemed drained though – I think she was pregnant during the filming, so maybe it was early pregnancy. Loved the footage of kids rolling down the side of APH. So sad that that vital symbolism has been lost – what exactly is the security risk of having the people walk over the building, if they are allowed to walk half way up?

#4
Holditz10:57 pm, 14 Mar 13

I’m hoping that’s not the only doco about Canberra in this centennial year. As much as we locals think Canberra is a great city, there’s not much telling people in the rest of the country, other than a plaintive “please like us!” A decent doco that talks about the birth and life of the city would be nice.

#5
poetix10:57 pm, 14 Mar 13

dpm said :

poetix said :

Mikhail Gorbachev, not Michael. And that’s a shocking story; that so very few people turned up to interview him.

I like how your corrections always include an additional ‘value add’ comment or two to the thread! So much nicer than your standard grammar/spelling nazi! :-)

I love how your comments are invariably positive in some way, even when pointing out a problem or foible!

Mine contain the added extra so that after JB corrects, people don’t just think ‘God she’s an idiot, he spelt it right all along.’ They may think ‘Mmm, perhaps there was a fault here which has been corrected after our esteemed editor gave due weight to the thoughtful comment of another Rioter. For someone who makes such a telling comment would surely not be such a klutz as to wrongly identify a mistake?’

Pathetic. But we all have our hobbies.

#6
EvanJames11:18 pm, 14 Mar 13

I found it quite interesting actually, I remember the Coombs thing, very vaguely, so it was good to get the whole thing, with old pollies and journos being interviewed for their versions… it was good. Not sure what all the complaining was about. Good TV.

#7
Madam Cholet8:37 am, 15 Mar 13

I found it interesting being not an original Canberran or Australian, but I thought that it was negative in general about Canberra – boring grey streets etc etc. I know it wasn’t meant to be a ‘why we think it’s wonderful here’, but hell, there is more to life here than ASIO.

It made out we all have to get around constantly watching our backs.

I note that the credits had some kind of ACT logo on it – so must have had some funding from the locals. Would have thought they could have made sure it was positive at least.

#8
devils_advocate9:05 am, 15 Mar 13

poetix said :

Mikhail Gorbachev, not Michael. And that’s a shocking story; that so very few people turned up to interview him.

No, the spelling would be closer to ??????. As far as attempts go to put a phonetic translation into roman letters, Mikhail and Michael are roughly equivalent.

#9
veg9:24 am, 15 Mar 13

I thought that her attempt to tie in the “open” plan of WBG’s design with the curent “secretive fortress” attitude was quite weak. I would have preferred to see either a doco on WBG or a doco on the spy stuff.

I realy dislike her “reporting” style too with all her subtle looks at the camera and “I’m above this” attitude. Although it wasn’t as painful as her contrived Kitchen Cabinet show. I’m trying to think of a better word but I think the OPs “twee” comment is just about perfect.

Plus I couldn’t help but laugh at all the dark footage and especially the bit where they are just driving around the old ASIO building carpark to make it appear grey and boring

#10
Madam Cholet9:27 am, 15 Mar 13

devils_advocate said :

poetix said :

Mikhail Gorbachev, not Michael. And that’s a shocking story; that so very few people turned up to interview him.

No, the spelling would be closer to ??????. As far as attempts go to put a phonetic translation into roman letters, Mikhail and Michael are roughly equivalent.

And Australians are very good at Anglicising people or place names. And how do we know if we are pronouncing his surname correctly?

#11
HiddenDragon10:36 am, 15 Mar 13

“Annabel does come across as far too twee at times” – perhaps, but this is, after all, the ABC – where (with apologies to Roy & HG) too much tweeness is hardly enough. I’d much rather this than yet more of Kevin McCloud or Stephen Fry (and Annabel looks so much nicer in a floral frock).

Even if this, and Kitchen Cabinet, offer some offence to the exquisite sensibilities of some Canberrans, I think Annabel is at least helping to make this town appear a little more normal and human to the rest of the nation (i.e. the people whose taxes keep the whole three ring circus rolling along).

#12
switch10:46 am, 15 Mar 13

Surprised she didn’t go into the VENONA decrypts which mentioned several people here who were being very free with information flow to the Russians back in the late forties. Which led to Chiefly setting up ASIO in the first place. e.g., talk to Ric Throssell about career limiting.

#13
JessP10:49 am, 15 Mar 13

I enjoyed it! Remeber some of the stories from my youth (Junie and Dr Jim, Coombes affair) and enjoyed getting the inside story.

A good show!

#14
secretmumma11:40 am, 15 Mar 13

Really enjoyed this, have one question, where was this “Charlies” place/bar they kept refering to?

#15
EvanJames11:47 am, 15 Mar 13

Every show about Canberra or set in Canberra doesn’t have to be some rah-rah beat up funded by ACT Tourism. Last night’s show was about a very interesting story, I hope there’s more like it. I loved the gossip, and the retrospective view, especially by Coombs himself. Fascinating stuff.

#16
EvanJames11:47 am, 15 Mar 13

secretmumma said :

Really enjoyed this, have one question, where was this “Charlies” place/bar they kept refering to?

Charlie’s was in the Centre Cinema Building, Italian food from memory?

#17
slashdot11:50 am, 15 Mar 13

As I recall, ASIO was headquartered in Melbourne until the late 80s, so shouldn’t most of this doco be about drab, boring, secretative, grey Melbourne?

#18
muscledude_oz11:54 am, 15 Mar 13

secretmumma said :

Really enjoyed this, have one question, where was this “Charlies” place/bar they kept refering to?

Charlies was a restaurant in the old Center Cinema building where La Scala is now. It was modelled on a restaurant in New York and had Charlie Chaplin as its mascot. Inside the restaurant were posters and pictures of famous Charlies including Charlie Brown. One of the dining areas was called The Limelight Room, Limelight being a movie starring Charlie Chaplin.

#19
johnboy11:59 am, 15 Mar 13

Coombs still shocked that a “mate” would put the interests of Australia above his own was a highlight.

#20
maureen5212:04 pm, 15 Mar 13

Charlies was a fantastic restaurant situated where La Scala is now in the old Centre Cinema building. I once went there for lunch and stayed for dinner.

#21
c_c™12:40 pm, 15 Mar 13

Annable Crabb was charming for a while, but the schtick is wearing a little thin.

If they don’t include a look at the infamous middle east finance broker been sped through the streets of Canberra, chased by another ComCar and dropping documents at a hotel before taking a decoy car, you know the producers are being lazy.

#22
obrijo12:45 pm, 15 Mar 13

Charlies restaurant is the place many Labor people drifted to after the sacking on 11 November 1975. Leunig was there and did drawings of us all which appeared in the Nation Review.

#23
Alderney12:51 pm, 15 Mar 13

I thought last night’s tele was riveting. I mean, who’d have thought Parramatta could play so well.

Seriously though, I’ll have to pick it up on iview as nothing stands in the way of the footy.

The only good thing about there being one game on a Friday night is that I can catch Dr Blake on iview afterwards. I’ll do Canberra Confidential sometime over the weekend.

#24
secretmumma1:21 pm, 15 Mar 13

obrijo said :

Charlies restaurant is the place many Labor people drifted to after the sacking on 11 November 1975. Leunig was there and did drawings of us all which appeared in the Nation Review.

drawings of “us” very interesting!

#25
EvanJames2:44 pm, 15 Mar 13

Alderney said :

The only good thing about there being one game on a Friday night is that I can catch Dr Blake on iview afterwards. I’ll do Canberra Confidential sometime over the weekend.

It’s bound to be repeated on ABC 2, things like that often are, and fair enough too.

I’m glad Crabbe has dropped the weird 40s Housewife clothes she was inhabiting for the pollies cookery show. I enjoyed the show, mostly, but her weird-arse get-ups were annoying.

#26
Alderney3:30 pm, 15 Mar 13

EvanJames said :

I’m glad Crabbe has dropped the weird 40s Housewife clothes she was inhabiting for the pollies cookery show. I enjoyed the show, mostly, but her weird-arse get-ups were annoying.

I just thought that’s the way she liked to dress.

I like it because it’s different.

#27
astrojax4:11 pm, 15 Mar 13

i was annoyed by the bloody wide-angle (almost fish-eye) photography as they panned past various canberra landmarks. i found her twee, as did jb, and the show overall a bit flat and lifeless, or forced.

still, at least someone is thinking to make canberra the centre of the attention of a show… nice one, aunty.

#28
c_c™5:28 pm, 15 Mar 13

astrojax said :

i was annoyed by the bloody wide-angle (almost fish-eye) photography as they panned past various canberra landmarks.

Not to mention driving around Australia’s national capital in a Detroit pimp mobile.

#29
Masquara6:21 pm, 15 Mar 13

johnboy said :

Coombs still shocked that a “mate” would put the interests of Australia above his own was a highlight.

Coombs and his wife owned more than one property, including an enormous house in Campbell, when the scandal broke … but when they split up soon afterwards she was immediately allocated a three bedroom guvvie in O’Connor off Macarthur Ave – no waiting on the emergency list for a Labor mate’s spouse! Coombs kept living in the large house in Campbell rather than move out, and charged the roof over his kids’ heads to the taxpayer …

#30
maureen526:49 pm, 15 Mar 13

I now live in the O’Connor ex guvvie once inhabited by Mr Coomb’s spouse!

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