Yoda-shaped hot air balloon to appear at Canberra Spectacular in 2015

Posted February 14, 2015 08:32:13

A massive hot air balloon shaped like the Star Wars character Yoda will take to the skies over Canberra as part of the city's 2015 Balloon Spectacular next month.

The Master Yoda balloon is slightly smaller than the balloon shape of his arch enemy Darth Vader, which visited the national capital in 2013.

An Angry Birds balloon in honour of the popular game will also be among more than 30 giant hot air balloons travelling to the national capital for the event.

Some of the balloons will come from the United States and Belgium to participate.

The annual festival will see dozens of balloons take off from the lawns of Old Parliament House during March and has been a popular tourism drawcard.

Depending on weather conditions the balloons will be seen floating across Lake Burley Griffin and around the city between March 7 and March 15.

The event is free for spectators.

Topics:travel-and-tourism, events, canberra-2600, act

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Updated February 14, 2015 05:56:02

Veteran Liberal MP Philip Ruddock has been sacked as chief government whip in the wake of the failed leadership spill motion, a move one MP likened to the start of "the night of the long knives".

Mr Ruddock, who is currently the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, will be replaced by Queensland MP Scott Buchholz.

Tasmanian MP Andrew Nikolic, a prominent supporter of the Prime Minister, will also be promoted to a whip position.

On Monday Mr Abbott came within 12 votes of facing a leadership spill and his narrow victory shocked the Prime Minister's loyalists.

Some senior ministers hold Mr Ruddock partly to blame, saying one of his roles should have been to rally support for the leader.

But others believe his job is to act as a sounding board for the backbench and to pass on MPs' concerns to Mr Abbott.

They say if that had happened, the Prime Minister would have been forewarned disquiet was building in his ranks.

When contacted by the ABC, Mr Ruddock said "the position of whip is in the gift of the leader, and any advice about that position should come from him [the Prime Minister]".

'Night of the long knives has begun'

Those willing to comment on the record are few and far between, but in a statement Queensland MP Andrew Laming described Mr Ruddock's sacking as "scapegoating of Godzilla proportions".

Another MP said it had gone down badly in the Liberal Party, and that it displayed a "tin ear to the party room".

A common complaint among Liberal MPs was that the news had been broadcast before they were consulted.

"So much for the new era of consultation," one senior MP said. Another suggested it was "yet another captain's call".

Philip Ruddock career highlights

  • Elected to House of Representatives 1973
  • Minister for immigration and multicultural affairs 1996-2001
  • Minister for immigration and multicultural and indigenous affairs 2001-03
  • Minister for administrative services 1997
  • Minister assisting the prime minister for reconciliation 1998-2003
  • Minister for reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs 2001
  • Attorney-general 2003-07
  • Chief government whip 2013-15

One senator said "this is nuts", while an MP stated "the night of the long knives has begun".

When asked if Mr Ruddock's departure was linked to this week's leadership spill motion, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said: "I don't believe there's any connection between the two matters.

"These matters are for the leadership to determine as to who is best placed to act as chief government whip.

"A decision has been made."

Other MPs the ABC spoke to thought it was a good move, saying Mr Ruddock had not done the job well.

Frontbencher Steve Ciobo rejected suggestions the decision was an act of recrimination.

"This reflects a change made by the Prime Minister to reflect feedback that he feels is appropriate in terms of the line-up of personnel," Mr Ciobo told Radio National Drive.

"I think this is a good outcome.

"It just so happens Scott Buchholz has an adjoining seat to me, I know him very very well, I think he's a very sound and solid Queensland Member of Parliament.

"I think he'll do an outstanding job as whip, but by the same token let me also just sing immense praise for Philip Ruddock, the father of the house, a long standing and long serving member of the Australian Parliament."

Prime Minister pays tribute to Father of the House

Mr Abbott is known to have great respect for Mr Ruddock and he paid tribute in a statement confirming the changes Friday afternoon.

"I acknowledge and thank the Hon Philip Ruddock MP for his extraordinary contribution to our country, this Government and the Liberal Party," Mr Abbott wrote.

"As Father of the House, Philip has given over four decades of service to the Australian Parliament and the Australian people.

"He was a senior minister throughout the life of the Howard government and was shadow cabinet secretary in opposition.

"Later this year he will become the second longest-serving parliamentarian in our history."

The move has been under discussion for more than a day.

The two men met after Parliament rose on Thursday.

Topics:liberals, liberal-national-party-queensland, political-parties, government-and-politics, federal-government, federal-parliament, abbott-tony, australia

First posted February 13, 2015 16:59:34

Contact James Glenday