Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

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The future Canberra: dream city or nightmare?

In recent blogs I focused on Federal Politics and Federal Politicians; ACT Politics and ACT Politicians were overlooked.  If nothing else, these words show just how easy it is to be distracted from really important issues by flashy and meretricious arguments from self-appointed and selfish federal politicians engaged in vote catching exercises.

Allowing ourselves to be distracted is wrong because in many ways, the ACT Legislative Assembly and its MLAs play a greater role in my life and that of Canberrans in general, than what politicians say in Federal parliament. Not that all federal politicians’ arguments are meretricious, but even serious ones tend to be overwhelmed by the flood of rhetoric from self-appointed important politicians, who treat voters as chooks waiting to be fed. Have they forgotten the fate of the last Queensland politician who did that regularly?

To bring me up to date on what has been happening in Canberra, I turned to the letters page of the Canberra Times only to find the same names gracing the letters page with the same opinions about the same issues and opinions of other regular letter writers and reports by the newspaper’s’ journalists.

The newspaper cannot be blamed for publishing them: it lies squarely with Canberra’s citizens. Curiously in an allegedly literate and articulate city where politics is a major business, the wider community seems apathetic about events in their city. The result the letters’ page has become a propaganda medium for narrowly based political views probably totally unrepresentative of the wider community.

To some extent the newspaper encourages this apathy by focusing on some issues it seems to hold dear but are little discussed in the wider community. Two examples: gay marriage and climate change. However, I have to say that as local branch of the National broadcaster also seems to focus on these issues it too, grants them an importance they do not deserve.

These issues aside, the caption above contributors’ letters page, Saturday 13th July, said:” Rudd fiddling with Facebook while the rest of us burn.”  However, not being a Facebook user I learned little about what was happening in Canberra other than a letter of complaint from Victoria no less, about the culling of Kangaroos which the writer said was shameful; another letter about what is an important issue “Abuse of law; a letter about the price of electricity and a letter about American Edward Snowden and his self-imposed imprisonment in Moscow’s airport and of the US being a terrorism nation and the writer’s view that Daniel Ellsberg was the last true (US) patriot.

Much as I found the letters’ page uninteresting, the article ‘Vision of our second century’ on page 3 of Forum, stirred my interest because author David Ellery wrote, that in 2113 Canberra would be a very different place.

He wrote petrol stations will have gone and electricity will come from renewable resources without saying what the renewable resources. Nuclear energy did not rate a mention. Effectively what he described as second century Canberra’s was first century Canberra re-incarnated, with a few alterations.

Aon the question of renewable resources I am surprised that Ellery made no mention of the fact that by 2113 on the basis of ITER (‘the way” in Latin) project at Cadarache, France, in which 34 nations representing over half of the world’s population are co-operating, ‘nuclear fusion’ reactors will likely be producing limitless supplies of cheap, clean and safe energy.

However, he may well be right that the population will live in smaller houses and still live in comfort because of advanced technology. Indeed the artefacts we use today will be obsolete as will many building materials. We will also live closer together because we will want more space for our new recreational needs. Indeed I am doubtful if Rugby, Rugby League or Cricket will still be in vogue because our physiognomy will have changed.

However, I do not agree with Professor Shirley Gregor, Director of the National Centre for Information Research who is quoted in the article as saying that Parliament House will continue to exist as place for politicians to congregate.

In fact I suggest that by 2113 Parliament House might no longer be necessary. Indeed my view is as technology advances that if a Parliament House is still needed it will be necessary to move it to a more central spot and use technology to service it. The current Parliament House could become a tourist attraction, accommodation and hospitality centre.

But when talking about a vision for a future Canberra let’s go out on limb and show some vision rather than continue to imitate the past. If we continue on our current course I feel sure the future will not just catch us up but will overtake us and leave us behind so that in the future Canberra will join the ranks of once great cities because the politicians that governed it had restricted vision.

Having said that it perhaps Members of the current Assembly will really start to look at the future so that instead of Canberra‘s history being the story of a failed experiment in social engineering, it will be a continuous story of grasping every opportunity.

Comment welcome.

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My latest blog is always available at: To make direct contact e-mail me at:

Canberra on the Beach

As I lay in bed dreaming I could see the palm trees by the lakeside beach swaying in the light Canberra wind, while children on the beach built sandcastles and dozens of Canberra bureaucrats and other overstressed workers lay on their LiLos getting suntanned (lightly of course) as they soaked up their daily dose of vitamin D in the hope of reducing their stress levels and revitalising their aching bodies and minds.

Well what’s wrong with that dream? If Canberrans can get a daily dose of Vitamin D lying on a LiLo at Lakeside Beach tourists can too. Then, alas, I woke up. But I didn’t mind; some of my past dreams came true though more often than not they became nightmares.

But the more I read about the beach the more I realized that I didn’t see any of the things I remembered from my childhood days. I couldn’t see any donkeys for children to take a ride on or a hot dog stand or an ice cream stall or bronzed life savers that teenage girls and those who imagined they were still teenage girls swooned over.

And nor was there a postcard stall perhaps because by the time the idea of the beach comes to fruition instead of a stall with naughty postcards it’s likely a new app for mobiles or whatever piece of technology is the latest must have, will be available so that friends can be sent “naughty pictures” with the message “wish you were here.”

The Lakeside Beach will also have big advantages over those lookalike beaches shown in brochure after brochure. Presumably too, the water that will lap the Lakeside beach will be fresh and so make swallowing mouthfuls of it more pleasant than swallowing mouthfuls of brine in either Biarritz -Europe’s surfing capital, or Bali.

Then the thought struck me that in case you forgot to brush your teeth you could remedy your forgetfulness by carrying toothbrush and toothpaste in your beach bag as well as suntan lotion, budgie snugglers or bikini so that you could scrub the molars with lake water.

But what excited me most about the plans for an urban beach was the idea of having a boardwalk, multi -story hotels, a casino, a forum, a convention centre and a rectangular stadium where the Raiders and Brumbies could display the talent that keeps them atop the league tables. I’d like to suggest also that a tattoo parlour be built on the boardwalk where team members or their fans could get themselves adorned. To complete the ancillary services, I think a Police Station might also be necessary.

Mind you, perhaps it’s presumptuous talking about the Raiders and Brumbies playing in the stadium? Will the Raiders and Brumbies still be in existence when the new stadium is ready or will they have moved to area where support and money is more plentiful? Like other businesses sport now goes to where the money is.

What also came to mind is a particular advantage the Lakeside beach has over the Bali and Biarritz beaches: it is unlikely it will ever be subject to a tsunami. This will be of special interest to Canberrans living near the beach or tourists temporarily resident in nearby hotels as it means they will be spared ever having to evacuate because of a tidal wave.

On the other hand if the Raiders and Brumbies are still in existence during the football season perhaps residents might experience a human tsunami of Rugby League or Rugby Union supporters. Mind you, if only to disclose my personal preferences I wouldn’t mind the occasional tsunami of Soccer (Football) supporters.

No doubt you will have noticed I have made no mention of what in the future might also be considered important tourist facilities. While brothels are still likely to be operating in Fyshwick, Mitchell and elsewhere in Canberra, consideration should be given to making provision for a male and female brothel in the beach precinct.

No doubt the perspicacious among you will notice that I‘ve made no mention of transport services. I do so in this case because Canberra is a hotbed of “planning experts” and so, on the basis that discretion is the better part of valour I left it out.

All comments welcome.

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After 100 years has Canberra come of age?

Monday, the 11th March, is the wrong day to celebrate Canberra’s birthday although it would sound mean to complain about celebrating it a day earlier because it gave Canberrans a long weekend holiday. That apart it has to be said that if celebrating Australia’s National Capital’s 100th birthday was so important, why wasn’t the rest of the nation part of the celebration?

You might also think it wrong that the ACT Government spent millions of dollars on a PR exercise saying Happy Birthday to Canberra on its 100th Birthday when millions of dollars are needed for important public facilities. Perhaps they did not just my mother did in my poor days of childhood when on Fridays she would often say: “to hell with poverty, put another herring in the pot.”

Though I haven’t yet reached the century mark myself (I am not saying I won’t because family is noted for its longevity) I think starting the celebration in January was a bit over the top. At the same time having seen birthdays come and go for many years, I wonder if the same thing will happen when Canberra reaches its second century and wonder too, if it will still be Australia’s Capital? Who knows? However of one thing I’m sure: if Canberra is still around in two hundred years not too many of its current citizenry will be around to enjoy the celebration.

This leads to my next question: 100 years from now will Canberra still be struggling to be recognised as a major city or, as Australia changes, will it have been overwhelmed and become an indulgence that Australia’s growing population says it cannot afford?

Regardless of the answer, Canberra’s landscape will change and upset those people locked into the present, and in some cases, the past. (Respectfully I request they get a copy of the book “Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier by Harvard Professor of economics Edward Glaeser). The fact is that high rise residential and accommodation buildings will become as common in Canberra as they are in every other country in the world and if it wishes to survive, Canberra will have to go with the flow.

So is Canberra destined to become become a Corbusier style city of high rise buildings surrounded by green spaces? Let me add that being selfish as well as old, I have no wish to hasten that future but hope that, in time, the planners will come to realise that instead of being a linear city that presents a barren image Canberra will need to have street life that gives life to the urban reaction that not only thrives on messiness but at the same time also helps people experience the changing nature of a city. If its planners are not alive to this situation Canberra will be even more barren that some people think it is today

The mantra of many Canberrans who live off the government teat is that Canberra is Australia’s cultural capital because it has Australia’s best educated and most literate society. That may be true but having met many of these people over more than forty years I think they are driven to this thought by fear of having to work for a living.

However, it has been my greata fortune during these more than forty years to know many people who spent much of their own time and money advancing the cause of a range of the arts and other cultural activities. Indeed if anyone deserved to share in Canberra’s 100th birthday party, it is surely these people. I hope they got an invite? If they have I hope it turns out to be the best party they ever attended.

Finally, if you wonder why I make little mention of planned birthday activities it is because every local newspaper, radio and TV will be out in force covering them. I only hope the people covered are neither politicians looking for a radio or TV grab or pic in the paper nor Canberra’s many status seekers and social climbers who measure their contribution to Canberra’s progress by the number of times they appear or are reported in the social and gossip pages.
Comment welcome.

ACT Election thoughts
In electoral terms Friday 14th September is almost as important as Saturday 20th September because it’s the day when all parties and Independent candidates must declare which candidates, if any, they will field at the ACT Election, Saturday 20th October.

While some people will have made up their minds already if, for example, the media gave the Pirate Party some space, some voters might find their policies more attractive than those of ACT Labor Liberals, Greens and other parties.

I am neither Pirate Party member nor a member of any other party. I am but a member of Canberra’s Great Unwashed Party whose members have no affiliation with any party contesting the election many of whom, like me dislike being treated as a political illiterate by self-appointed political experts and commentators of whom many have strong ties to existing political hierarchies.

To come to that conclusion, one need go no further than read newspapers, watch TV news and listen to current affairs radio programmes where, day after day, these self-appointed political experts in the guise of providing information to the public subtly push the political philosophy of the party they support. And while it is said that comparisons are odious, in a sense these experts are to be compared with the people who supported recent political tyrants not to mention those who support the current tyrants still hogging the political stage in many countries around the world.

Sadly, with respect to Canberra, the Community Alliance has decided not contest the next election. On the other hand it is pleasing to note that some of its members still have that revolutionary urge. Indeed keeping the idea of political revolution alive is important. Without revolutionaries, democracy will stagnate and decay as people become comfortable with the reigning status quo.

That said it seems to me democracy in Canberra has stagnated already and now needs a political revolution to bring it alive again. Perhaps this will happen if the Assembly elected on 20th October has enough political revolutionaries to keep voters thinking constantly about how to make democracy work even better. If that happens, perhaps Canberra will become the city it was intended to be, a dynamic city where progressive development and social engineering were in balance.

Perhaps if candidates from the Pirates Party, the AMP, the Social Justice Party or the Liberal Democrats also get elected they will stir their fellow Members and infuse them with energy and ideas that will make Canberra the exemplar to be followed when Australia’s future cities are being built.

Published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday August 21. Online publication Wednesday, August 22 at :

The Australian society I first experienced early in 1951 does not exist today. I admit I was only here for a week and as I worked during the day and could only see Melbourne at night my impression of Australia, based on Melbourne, was less that accurate.
Unfortunately I was constrained from staying any longer by the fact that, if I didn’t return to the British Progress, the oil tanker on which I was serving as a deck boy, the possibility existed, that if I wasn’t on board when it left Melbourne I might end up in jail which possibly would result in me being deported at a later date.
Had this scenario eventuated this would have cruelled any chance of my coming to live in Australia, an eventuality that, in retrospect some people today might wish had happened. However, as I was to find out many years later, the latter would have been unlikely unless I had been a regular visitor to the courts in Britain.
As it turned out, in 1969 my family came to Australia as migrants on the Achille Lauro, On disembarking at Sydney l fully expected to see a city not much different to my Melbourne of memory. It was an expectation quickly dashed. S
Sydney’s ambience was more American, a country I had visited in the interim, rather than the European feel of Melbourne I remembered, or even New Zealand where I lived for two and a half years in the early fifties. But when my family moved Melbourne I was shocked also. Although in no way could it be likened to Sydney since my visit eighteen years previously it, too, had changed although I have to say the change was less noticeable because the city’s elegant building infrastructure still presented that European look and feel.
My experience on return to Canberra in 1970 was much the same. The Canberra I first came to with my family in 1970 and where we lived for a year is not the same Canberra we returned to late in in 1975 after living in Townsville, Darwin, Brisbane and the three coasts: Gold, Sunshine and NSW South Coast.
With the exception of Darwin I have visited all these places again. Noticeably they had changed. With can do civic leaders committed to progress, they had grown up, developed new industries and attracted many new residents. Canberra must do the same.
Not that Canberra hasn’t changed, it has! Indeed since 1975 it has changed many times, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Not that I am alone in thinking that but being a realist I know change does not always give you what you want. But that’s life.
In some ways Canberra’s greatest misfortune is that people want a Canberra of pre self-government days when Canberra was tied to the Commonwealth Government’s apron strings, a want that can be seen in many letters to the editor and calls to talk back radio. Illogically, they also want to retain the benefits of changes since self-government. .
Many of the people who write these letters to the editor and engage talk back radio are part of a loose grouping of group think anti- development cohorts who more often than not are pro conservation and rightists of various kinds. In case you think I’m being unfair and picking on these groups there are also group think cohorts of developers and other business people who totally oppose them.
But the trouble with the majority of group think cohorts, whether the former or that latter, is that they cannot abide anyone disagreeing with them. Should someone in a cohort dare disagree with them, their fate is to be sent to Coventry.
I also think the most prominent group think cohorts are political parties, though cohorts of squabblers might be a better description, whose squabbling often seems more about their place in the world rather than how to make Australia and the world a better place. As for Canberra many of them treat it more like a refreshment stop on an ancient caravan route rather than the National Capital.
The Chronicle for Canberra’s bset Community News. Published every Tuesday

First published ‘The Chronicle’ Canberra, Tuesday 3 July, 2012. Also published online 4 July

Many times during my years in Canberra’s tourism industry I racked my brains about how Canberra could become a destination that adult tourists would visit time and time again. Though the War Memorial and other national institutions might stir the heart of patriots, unfortunately, not all tourists are patriots.

That said, what I thought Canberra needed was something that promised more excitement. In my experience, because tourists expect to remember holidays as exciting I find it hard to imagine many of them on returning home rushing to tell friends and neighbours about their exciting holiday visiting Australia’s national institutions and then urging them to visit the nearest travel agent and make Canberra their next holiday destination. That, I think, would be a big stretch of the imagination.

I raise the subject of tourism because the new multi- million dollar Tourism Australia advertising campaign, which makes no mention of Canberra, has raised the ire of some in the Capital’s tourism industry. Are they wrong? Does the ad have an underlying message they cannot see?

Perhaps the ad does have an underlying message based on the phrase, coined many years ago by the ACT tourism industry, that Canberra is Australia’s best kept secret. On the other hand perhaps the creators of the advertising campaign didn’t know Canberra was the National Capital or that they left Canberra out intentionally so as to prompt the curiosity of potential tourist on the basis that if people thinking of taking a holiday in France or England would probably look at their capitals Paris or London, before making a decision.

If that was the strategy, time will tell if they were right. In particular they will be delighted if they hear reports that not only has Canberra’s accommodation industry gone into overdrive to meet the demand for beds but that Canberra’s institutions, attractions, retail outlets, cafes and restaurants are also being swamped by a demand for information.

But my long experience in tourism also taught me something else. Tourism is a fickle mistress who often dashes the expectations of her suitors. That being the case and in the event the strategy doesn’t work, let me suggest an alternative strategy, the idea of Canberra having a Naughty Quarter that houses the kind of risqué entertainments synonymous with other world capitals. Why, I asked myself doesn’t Canberra have an area like London’s Soho or Montrnartre in Paris, home of the Moulin Rouge and its famous Can-Can girls, not to mention the Folies Bergere and its Bluebell Girls, many of whom are Australians?

This being Canberra, the decision about where to locate the Naughty Quarter would not only be the subject of many planning consultations but also as to whether or not Canberra needed such a quarter. And although planning consultations in Canberra tend to take a long time to be concluded I am optimistic that with an election looming, consultations would be speedy and a decision made quickly.

However, because time waits for no man I have made tentative plans for a grand opening cabaret designed by local company Scallywag Productions, featuring some of Australia’s greatest entertainers and regular performers in Canberra’s Theatre of the Absurd. And so, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado I present: “Canberra Cabaret.”

As befitting the city’s status, no expense would be spared in making this a star studded production. Scallywag Productions has invited famous political juggler Julia Gillard to top the bill and act as Mistress of Ceremonies. And no doubt to, as do other famous Emm Cees, when she introduces each act she will do so with few quips.

To help her a Scallywag’s script writer has suggested she use the following introductions to various acts: Wayne Swan and his economic dance troupe; Bill Shorten and, his knife throwing act The Scalpels; Tony Abbot, as the star of ‘Yes’, a short political sketch; and Christopher Pyne, the famous political escapologist. The script writer also suggested she introduce Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Andrew Wilkie as the Four Stooges; Christine Milne the star of Green for Danger, and, depending on circumstances, Craig Thomson as the Playboy Pollie. I feel sure with such top line entertainment that tourists will visit Canberra again and again and again!
The Chronicle for Canberra’s best community news. Published every Tuesday and online on Wednesday at:

First published The Chronicle Canberra Tuesday 26 July 2011

My home bookshelf is filled with a range of books many of them non academic in content. But some people in Canberra fill their bookshelves with ‘classics,’ hoping that visitors will think them people of learning. Unfortunately I’ve seen these people filled with embarrassment when, on being asked a question about a book, it becomes clear that they hadn’t read it.

Because TWO CANBERRAS is a book of opinions and because it addresses issues in Canberra about which I have expressed strong opinions it is a book I will read again and again, first because it is eminently readable and second because Professor Jenny Stewart, the author, presents her opinions with great lucidity. That being the case, I cannot imagine anyone not being able to understand it.

The TWO CANBERRAS is a book that will appeal to people with a real, not confected, interest in Canberra’s architecture and community. I think too, that Professor Stewart’s opinion that Canberra is two cities not only indicates her involvement in the city’s life, but that it is likely to attract contrary opinions.

That The Canberra Times, The Australian, Online Opinion, Public Sector Informant and the ABC have published and broadcast Professor Stewart’s opinions also shows the importance of what she has to say. Adding to its importance are her comments on national issues and perhaps more important to some people, the state of Australian Cricket. 

The book has eight sections: Beyond growth; On the knowledge; Unplanning the national capital; Governing the city state; The national interest; Meaning well; Preoccupations; and Public Service with articles on population, planning, public education, training, housing, transport, governance, pets, drugs, alcohol regulation, issues that constantly invoke a community’s praise or condemnation. Depending on their personal likes or dislikes it is a book that people will either praise or damn.

I do not agree with all of Professor Stewart’s opinions and nor do I think she expects everyone else will either. Nonetheless I feel sure she hopes that, whether or not readers agree or disagree, the TWO CANBERRAS will set people thinking about how the Canberra community could work better.

That said, I am of the view also, that if our local parliamentarians are really serious about Canberra’s future, not only should they read this book they should be proposing that it become part of the curriculum in Canberra’s public and private high schools and colleges. Who better to read and discuss the issues the book contains than those from whom will come people who will form Canberra’s future governments. 

As an example, take the first article “Resilience.” In this article Professor Stewart gives her opinion on the various interpretations of the word. Not only is the piece worth reading for her opinions it also sets the stage for her opinion on many other issues about which, I have no doubt, readers will either agree or disagree. Two Canberras indeed.                  

Another intriguing article is ‘Unknown Knowns.’ Had former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ever read this article I doubt he would have made the statement in Feb 2002 that gave him fame and made him look foolish: “We know there are known knowns: there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns: that is to say we know there are things we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” Let me add that you won’t be left not knowing what Professor Stewart thinks when you’ve finished reading her ‘Unknown Knowns’ article.

But no opinion book about one or two Canberras would be complete without comments about planning, an issue Professor Stewart opines on in her article ‘Unplanning the national capital.” She also opines on some of its more memorable political fgures such as former Chief Ministers Kate Carnell and Jon Stanhope and perhaps the less than memorable John Hargreaves.  

Professor Stewart’s common sense book is non ideological. However after reading it, and I hope many people do, they may come to form the opinion that Canberra’s current model of government is not one that best suits the Capital.

The TWO CANBERRAS available at the Paper Chain bookshop, Manuka, and Co-op Bookshops: Price $25 (incl. GST) 

The Chronicle for Canberra’s best Community news, published every Tuesday


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