Identity politics. Half the time I don’t know what’s meant by a term wielded like a Star Wars lightsabre.

I do, though, have a guesstimation that nowadays: a) some people feel better by being able to call themselves what they individually feel themselves to primarily be, and; b) some people feel worse cos they think that undermines us as a social whole. The two ‘some people’ don’t appear to like each other very much.

All of which seems a bit upside down to me cos the people in the first group tend to also think of themselves as ‘progressives’ and…


If you ever catch a cuppa with an Australian Federal or State politician who is out of Government and in Opposition, he or she will inevitably lament the situation of their Party and themselves.

You’re likely to be told about the lack of resources, the lack of critical data, the inability to ‘make a difference’, and the difficulty of ‘cutting through’ and getting one’s messages out. Some have described to me their feeling that they’re in some airport waiting lounge ceaselessly waiting on the plane that is power, prestige and policy influence.

Some in Opposition become obsessed with the Leadership…


Some old golfer with a gut won a big tournament in the States overnight and, as we march around the park with beer bellies and Olympic-level sneakers, McCluskey reckons it’s a vindication of everything he, his generation, and the realm that we survey have ever stood for. He cites it as evidence that there’s still hope for washed-up white males. I note it as we get to around 5k steps.

As young workmates in the early 90s, me and McCluskey would drink at the Concourse bar in the bowels of Wynyard Station on the way home to our respective and…


‘The Coalition has abandoned debt and deficit in a monumental shift to its political narrative.’

That’s the refrain we’ve basically heard from many of Australia’s political journalists since the release of the Government’s last budget and its emphasis on spending on aged care, mental health and other social policy areas.

If one moment singularly captures how bad some sections of Australian political journalism has become, we have arrived at.

Let’s breakdown the bad. Let’s look at the flawed assumptions and lazy thinking.

First and foremost — by like a half-marathon ahead — the current take on the Budget reveals the…


This past week, in a tiny town in upstate New York that he and his family have called home for more than sixty years, a good man was buried with his coffin proudly draped by an American flag. State Troopers in their Smokey and the Bandit hats provided a guard of honour at his funeral.

Zen Sawchuk, my uncle, was 95.

When a loved one passes, we set out the historical markers of their lives. It’s how we “locate” them in the world and in our own adjacent lives. We can also reflect on what gracious gifts the deceased have…


Every profession has a “black box” that it’s not keen for customers or the public to look inside. Or, where it hides the little tricks of the trade that create the industry’s perceived value and operators’ return on investment.

“Black boxes” pay for a lot of ski holidays in Aspen and private school fees on the North Shore, and can therefore be firmly jammed shut lest their contents become commodified.

When it comes to media management and public relations, the “black box” can be even harder to get inside because it’s an industry based on words and images. …


I took a tumble this weekend.

Ass over tit, as they say. Head over heels.

Specifically, a young kid somehow crossed over into the opposite lane and we had a big bicycle bingle. I first flew into my handlebars, and then up and over them into a perfect two-point landing. The two points being by my brain bucket (or bike helmet) and my right hand.

And that isn’t elegant when you’re built like a 120 kilogram rugby prop and not like Richie Porte (an Australian cycling champion).

After briefly blacking out and then coming to on the bicycle path, I…


Cycling is a remarkable gift to very unremarkable people like me.

I’ve spent the best part of fifty years admiring and sometimes madly envying people with real talent and skill. Those of amongst us who can:

· Do somersaults and handstands in gymnastics;

· Put names against every plant or rock they see;

· Play Mozart on the clarinet;

· Build a kid’s playhouse from a scratch, or;

· Understand and contribute to quantum mechanics.

Alas, I’m a very mere mortal with no ability in most things and limited ability in a narrow set of things — like writing a…


If one were to judge by Twitter, everything in Australia is currently shit. Endless angry and hurt tweets about injustice, power imbalance, sexual abuse, and gender discrimination.

There’s no doubt that there’s legitimacy to many concerns being expressed — especially by women of lived and very damaging experience. As someone who was in and near politics for nearly 20 years, I am among those who say: the culture sucks and make changes now.

But there’s equally no doubt that some of the current discourse is on the border of a “gendered McCarthyism”. While the cause may be worthy, we can…


Every profession has stuff that it would prefer for people — be it clients, stakeholders or punters — not to know.

Think of the all the hidden cost and profit structures around modern medicine and pharmaceuticals.

Or, you know that you’re only getting glimmers of insight when you listen to ex-captains of the national cricket team doing the TV commentary.

And so it is with the profession that is political polling.

Times, though, have changed due to the debate — which was ironically somewhat inaccurate — about the accuracy of Presidential polling in the 2016 Trump upset win. …

Pete Shmigel

Pete Shmigel writes, coaches, advocates for mental health, and serves on Boards - after surviving 3 CEO gigs and professional politics.

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