Crisis is a word that gets used a lot in newspapers. There’s the cricket crisis. The Global Financial Crisis. The sports doping crisis. Crises like these are often unexpected, tumultuous events - they naturally grab the headlines.
And then there are the slow burn crises that sneak up on you. Like the obesity crisis or the energy crisis. They’re like a frog sitting in a pot of water over an open flame. Sometimes you don’t notice the crisis until your frog is completely cooked. And so let me draw your attention to a crisis that is directly in front of us, and about to reach boiling point.
Our cities are in crisis. Deep down, we all know it. When it takes 30 minutes to drive a two kilometre stretch of road. When we’re late for work because the bus didn’t turn up. When our kids are late for school because you were stuck in traffic. When we don’t get home until 7pm because of a traffic incident in a suburb five suburbs away.
Our roads and rail systems are struggling under the weight of our ever growing population and it’s time we did something about it.
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Confession: I’m a nanna driver. I hunch over that wheel as though it’s a Zimmer frame, bent forward with my shoulders around my ears. I actually LIKE getting stuck behind slow trucks because it means there’s no pressure to put the foot down.
Thing is, I live in the Hills. Lovely lazy winding roads with nowhere to pull over or overtake.
Upshot is I get tailgated. A lot. In a way I can’t blame people. I’m in the way. They’ve planned on getting somewhere at a certain time and I’m foiling their plans. As a punctual person, I understand their frustration.
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During the lead-up to last week’s federal budget and the reporting that followed, the overwhelming focus was on whether Labor could deliver on the surplus promise it had pledged.
The focus Australia has on keeping its books balanced is commendable, but there is another deficit we face. One that gets worse every year, and one that could create havoc in the economic budget if not attended to.
The environmental deficit. Last year’s State of the Environment report made the same point that it has made since its initial publication in 1996 - things are OK, but getting progressively worse.
Australia’s most ugly, useless, crappy, half-baked, unvisionary piece of so-called transport infrastructure is soon to be demolished and shipped to Shelbyville.
Actually, we mean, Mono… Hooray!
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This week’s Angry Cripple column is by Tom Bridge, who graduated from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with a Bachelor of Arts, completing a double major in Ethics and Human Rights and Political Studies. He was born with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus and blogs at Aussie Pollies...
Most people run a mile from the idea of the government regulating too many aspects of their lives. But in light of the way people with a disability have been dealt with - or not dealt with - particularly since de-institutionalisation, a strong argument exists for much more government interference. It would be beneficial if the three different levels of government ran interference and legislated for much stronger, even mandatory accessibility provisions.
Governments of both political persuasions at the local state and federal level have baulked at any major action on accessibility for some years now and that is not good considering the growing number of people with a disability, including the ageing population who will also face accessibility issues.
Fifteen years ago when one of your girlfriends had a few too many Illusion shots standard practice was to put her in a cab, give the driver her address and $20 and pat yourself on the back for being a responsible friend.
You wouldn’t do that now. Not if you cared about her well being at all. Trust between taxi drivers and passengers has been worn down to a new low, typified by comments yesterday from a Perth cabbie, who after being acquitted of involvement in a sexual assault said it was becoming more and more common for taxi drivers to be offered sexual favours in exchange for fares.
It’s one of those “trends” that’s impossible to quantify. No woman is ever going to admit to anyone that when she found herself $10 short of a cab fare after the work Christmas party she settled the debt with a quick sexual act. It is a highly unlikely response to a situation.
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What price forgiveness? Will a free plane ride make you take Qantas back into your heart? Will you once again feel a tickle of pride and fondness as the falsetto notes of ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ rise from those precocious young throats?
For most people, the answer will be: “Hell yeah, and I’ll take one of those fluffy kangaroos home for the kids!”. We can’t sustain moral outrage for long, especially in the face of compensation.
The Qantas ‘crisis’ is a numbers game from start to finish, and it’s a game they’ll probably win.
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Alan Joyce seems to have copped the ire of just about everyone because he was the bloke announcing Saturday’s decision to ground the Qantas fleet.
The decision was understandably unpopular with those stranded travellers who had their plans thrown into disarray – and we can certainly all understand their anger and sympathise with them.
But for every person affected by the 48 hours or so that Qantas wasn’t flying, there will be many more Qantas travellers over the next 21 days who have finally got certainty with the Fair Work Australia decision to disallow industrial action. Moreover, those thinking of flying in the future will be able to book with Qantas with certainty.
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Jesus motherloving Christ. If Alan Joyce is making a late bid for Twat of the Year 2011, then he’s eating daylight on his competitors. On Saturday the Qantas CEO shut down worldwide operations of one of the planet’s biggest airlines, in an over-reaction that made King Lear look pretty chill.
Like one of those seasoned chooks you get all ready for roasting, some things come pre-satirised. On Friday, Joyce asked shareholders at Qantas’ annual general meeting to give him a pay rise of 71 per cent, from under $3 million a year to about $5 million. They did. The next day, he shut down their company entirely, because of the “extreme demands” of workers. First prize, Alan. Believe.
Where unions have to give 72 hours notice of any action, Joyce gave zero hours. He stranded 68,000 people worldwide, upended the plans of tens of thousands more, and lost an unquantifiable number of future bookings.
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Somewhere in California a student is having a laugh. His name is Alan Joyce and he holds the Twitter handle @Alanjoyce. A number of people, of whom I am one, wrongly added that name to tweets on the grounding of Qantas (If you’re so proud of taking the “hard decision” how about making one about your pay @alanjoyce ? #qantas).
Fellow tweeps pointed out the error and corrections were quickly posted. I even apologized to Mr @alanjoyce, somewhat pointlessly as the Stanford student understands full well that he does not run an airline any more than the former Hawthorn coach (Alan Joyce) does.
The reason my @alanjoyce tweet got a life of its own was that so many people apparently agreed with the sentiment and retweeted it. Some did not agree but retweeted it too.
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In the wake of yet another tragic level crossing accident in Melbourne, a Melbourne train driver gives his perspective on the often frightening view from the driver’s seat…
Express running is the worst, or running empty cars back to a depot because you are not scheduled to stop but the punters are attuned to the stopping of trains at platforms.
They assume you’re going to stop and if they quickly duck under the safety barrier they can still catch your train!
A couple of my fellow drivers have hit small children at level crossings. Imagine pulling the train to a stand still, getting out of the cab and being confronted with the grieving parent. One train driver even had the mother screaming at him and physically hitting him.
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I’m cycling on a side street crossing a major suburban arterial road in Adelaide.
At the intersection, I scan left and the traffic is banked up from traffic lights 300 metres away. To my right is a sizeable gap. Off I go.
A shiny 4WD accelerates towards me, closing the gap faster than I thought possible, but nowhere near fast enough for panic.
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The concept of high speed rail travel was dismissed by 19th century scientist Professor Dionysius Lardner, who warned that “passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia”.
The passage of time (and the development of physics) has proved Lardner wrong, with the proliferation of extensive high speed rail networks on every inhabited continent - except for Australia.
That’s not to say it has not been considered here. Far from it. Australia has been through at least three serious considerations of High Speed Rail (HSR) in the past 30 years.
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So we’re a step further down the track to blowing $110 billion of taxpayer’s money on a new high speed rail network which will do exactly what planes do, only three times slower. Woohoo for progress.
Yesterday’s $20 million feasibility report was enthusiastically greeted by many, even though Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese admitted our relatively small population meant the price tag could be hard to justify.
He’s not wrong. Every other country with high speed rail, like Japan and China and France and Spain, has a far denser population than ours. In Australia, economies of scale mean this thing would be unlikely ever to pay for itself.
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Inner-city Australia is getting an Italianate look, and it’s not from the overwhelming belief that eating on the footpath among exhaust fumes and bus queues is a badge of continental sophistication.
It’s the increasing presence of scooters. City centres are being Vespa-ised, Aprilia-cated, VMoto-ed, and not a little Piaggio-ified.
The striking response to rising petrol prices and clogged roads has been a growth in the scooter fleet which would be at home in Rome. During the first half of the year, scooters sales in Australia rose 14.3 per cent over the same period in 2010. That means nearly 6000 were sold, compared to just over 5000 in the first six months of last year.
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Cadel Evans’ heroic performance at the Tour de France is being celebrated around Australia, as it should. I’ve been watching the Tour for a long time, and it’s the best individual sporting performance I’ve ever seen.
Over the past three weeks, between the wee hours of 10pm and 2am, Evans has bought together the previously estranged cycling fans and those who have never ridden a bike to jointly applaud his guts and determination, his enormous heart and never-say-die attitude. All qualities we Aussies love and admire in our sports heroes.
The response has been wholly positive. Almost. Despite Evans’ epic win, some media commentators have still felt the need to roll out the tired “well, I guess this means we have to put up with more lycra-clad clowns on the roads” line.
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Last year, I resolved to buy a car.
My enthusiasm quickly evaporated, however, when I actually started poring through the classifieds and realised the whole thing was going to cost me a substantial amount of cash.
I also became terrified of getting stiffed by some crisp-collared sales-jerk or a bunch of snakes in a floral-print dress disguised as a sweet old lady.
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Are you sick of being ripped off at the petrol pump? Are you annoyed that despite ample oil supplies on the market to meet current demand the speculators persist in trying to push up world oil prices? And don’t forget that the Singapore benchmark for refined petrol used to calculate local petrol prices remains one of the highest in the world.
A rip off is a rip off. The fact is that despite consistently being an inflated benchmark the Singapore benchmark for unleaded petrol has fallen dramatically since May 6. Despite valiant efforts by the speculators to try and prop up world oil prices, the Singapore benchmark price has fallen signifcantly.
As the Singapore benchmark price falls so should the local wholesale and retail petrol prices. The problem is that falls take forever to be passed through to motorists at the pump. We are given the usual “reasons” for the time lag. We are told that it takes time for the oil companies and major retailers to clear out old stock bought at the old, higher price.
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When NSW Labor is wiped off the map tomorrow, it will partly be because, as Joe Hildebrand pointed out, the Labor government has rather impressively committed every sin known to mankind. But mostly, it’ll be because the government is widely viewed as having reduced this state to tatters. The question is: Is NSW really in such bad nick?
I have lived in NSW for about 30 of my 41 years. The sun still shines, the trains still crawl and the water still runs, except of course for that time in 1998 when it was full of nasty parasites.
In most respects, this state is nowhere near the basket case some make it out to be. Obviously, NSW would have benefited from something approaching a competent government for much of the last 16 years, but it’s not all gloom and doom in Woolloomooloo, and beyond. Let’s take a closer look.
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Motorcyclists stand up and take a bow—preferably after you’ve turned off your engines. You have become a political lobby group representing men and, increasingly, women of all ages, and are revving up influence at all levels of government.
Unlike those other two-wheelers, the Lycra dandies on bicycles who contribute no registration fees but demand exclusive use of great slabs of road, motorcycle riders pay their own way and ask for little.
Well, they used to ask for little. Now they are making demands, and the consequence will be less traffic congestion, lower pollution levels, and more money in household budgets.
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“PLANE NOISY” yells the front page of my local paper this week, over yet another story based on the gripes of semi-professional aircraft noise complainers whose persistent whining is vastly more annoying than the rumbles of the jets to which they object.
Aircraft noise is a hot backyard political issue in many Australian towns and cities – notably Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane. It helped Kevin Rudd build his political profile in his Brisbane electorate. But the attention it gets is thanks to the efforts of coalitions of obsessives whose biggest problem, as far as I can see, is they cannot find the remote to turn up the volume on their TVs and forget about it.
Well, welcome aboard passengers, to our short flight today to Give It A Rest. If you take a look at the card in the seat-back in front of you, you’ll find instructions for selling your house and moving to a suburb that’s not under the flight path.
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Next Wednesday the National Road Safety Council will have its inaugural meeting in Parliament House. This initiative from Australia’s Transport Ministers is an attempt to get expert advice from around the nation to make practical suggestions aimed at reducing our road toll.
The meeting will have a sombre tone.
Sadly, the heart-wrenching grief caused by road deaths visited more families last year than the year before. The road toll in 2009 was up by almost 5 per cent to 1,509 deaths, albeit still the second lowest figure in almost 60 years and less than half the average recorded during the peak of the 1970’s (3798).
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