Three Minute Squiz With… Dennis Atkins

Dennis Atkins is the National Affairs Editor for the Courier-Mail in Brisbane. Not only is he one of the most respected and insightful journalists covering federal politics, but he’s also a keen foodie and music fan. We’re chuffed Dennis is a Squiz fan and that he joined us for a Three Minute Squiz.

How and where do you Squiz?
I Squiz on my phone, either on the couch or at the gym, depending on the timing. Before I locked into the iPhone’s new screen time function – which I love as it limits my time on the phone – I’d sometimes Squiz in bed. That’s behind me now.

Politics, eh… Is it harder to do these days or do you think the players aren’t as good? Because there’s definitely a “they’re all hopeless” waft in the air…
Ah, yes, we all hanker for the “good old days” and as someone who’s old enough to have been in Canberra for Malcolm Fraser’s going and Hawkie’s ascension, as well as the glory days of Keating and Howard, I have seen leadership that’s better than what we’ve seen in the past 11 years. I keep hoping for a new great leader. Make sure you mention it in The Squiz if someone turns up!

And you have an election campaign to cover in the coming months. Are you filled with dread or are you hopeful that the pollies will rise to the occasion?
I’m just exhausted at the thought. I could script the next election for you right now. The outcome is a little harder although Labor is right to be the favourite.

Who do you rate as the best politician you’ve seen and why?
Bob Hawke. He was the best election winner and he had a genuine vision for Australia. He has his flaws but his beliefs and convictions were unshakable. The public loved him more often than not and still do.

Any tips on some up-and-comers in the parliament that we should keep an eye on?
In the second tier definitely Josh Frydenberg and Jim Chalmers – I reckon they’ll both lead their parties. Otherwise, Labor’s Clare O’Neil from Labor and Tim Wilson from the Liberals – they both have big futures.

As well as reading your coverage in the Courier Mail, we listen to the Two Grumpy Hacks podcast you do with Malcolm Farr. One review says it’s “Insiders meets Roy and HG”. Is it as much fun to do as it sounds?
I’ve been having these conversations with Malcolm for almost 20 years, either in person or over the phone. We have similar sideways views of the world and don’t mind laughing at everyone and everything, including ourselves. We love doing the podcast.

What was the first album you ever owned?
The Who’s My Generation.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?
I’m not a big karaoke guy but when pressed it’s the Chisel or Working Class Man.

What’s your guilty TV-watching secret?
It used to be The Good Wife but now I can’t stop watching David Simon’s The Deuce.

Name four people – living or dead – you’d kill to sit down to dinner with.
Chef Rene Redzepi (because I’d hope he’d cook), President Barack Obama, writer Malcolm Gladwell and musician Jeff Tweedy.

Your favourite book and writer?
My favourite book has been Albert Camus’s The Outsider since I was a teenager. My favourite writer is George Orwell.

What skill or talent do you not have but wish you did?
Play guitar like Mike Bloomfield.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

What’s your worst and best habit?
My worst habit is pushing my way to the front of a queue and my best is sharing the latest music, book and restaurant I’ve discovered.

You’re a bit of a foodie – what’s your no-fail recipe and favourite meal at your favourite restaurant?
My no-fail recipe is osso bucco and my favourite restaurant meal is the Middle Eastern lamb tartare or laham nayyeh with harissa, preserved lime, shallot, pickled cucumber and confit egg yolk at Gerard’s Bistro in Fortitude Valley. It’s heaven!

What qualities do you most value in a friend?
Generosity and the ability to say “sure” when I call and say “let’s go out to dinner!”

What would you say is the most currently overlooked news story we should know about?
The threat to our oceans and ocean life from rubbish, especially microplastics.

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