Autumn in Canberra, 2014

Autumn in Canberra is a glorious time of year:





Source: iStock

Recently, Joe Hildebrand and Wendy Harmer had a bob each way on the merits of living in Sydney or Melbourne.  Secretly, I think Joe wanted to let us know that he had reached the dizzy heights of receiving a personal invitation to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks up close and personal while Wendy wanted to remind us that the spire on Melbourne’s Arts Centre went up in smoke on New Year’s Eve.

I’ve lived in Melbourne and Sydney, having been born in the Garden State but done a couple of years in the eighties in the Premiere State.  I have spent most of my life in Canberra, the nation’s capital, the place where residents are here predominantly to serve the nation and the people of Australia (that would make a good newspaper banner, eh?).  I love Canberra, but:

  • It drives me bonkers that we can’t take advantage of our main waterway, Lake Burley Griffin.  This is because it’s governed by a Commonwealth Minister who goes home when parliament rises.  S/he doesn’t give a toss whether we are able to have good coffee and wine by the Lake.  After all, when said Minister is in Canberra, access to nice coffee and nice wine is easy up on The Hill.  And I’m not taking a pot shot at the current government.  This has been going on for years; well at least since 1963 when the Lake was flooded.
  • We have a long way to go in the service to tourism department.  Perhaps we need a special department called the Department of Service to Tourism.  It would encourage restaurants to stay open beyond 9.30 pm and over the Christmas and January period; it would ensure that staff are paid to serve patrons; it would ensure that visitors have plenty of choices when blockbusters are on such as the Renaissance Exhibition and Summernats.  The biggest winners during the recent ‘family friendly’ Summernats were Woolies and Maccas at Dickson!
  • It can sometimes be treacherous to be out at dinner when parliament is sitting.  If we want to gossip then we need to perform the Canberra Turn to make sure that no relatives of the gossipee are within earshot.
  • Coffee is sometimes a ridiculous price for something average.
  • Ditto food.
  • It is nigh impossible to get any tradesperson.
  • Letters to the Editor demonstrate that Eddie the Expert is alive and well in our region.  Our Eddies know whether or not the trees are dying on Northbourne Avenue, even though arborists have been consulted and their view doesn’t coincide with Eddie.  They expect the government (read ACT Assembly) to be responsible for everything from people who dump rubbish at charity bins to preventing infection in the prison when they don’t want a needle exchange program.

However, the benefits far outweigh all of this:

  • The weather is fabulous, with four seasons over the year rather than the day.
  • There are many vantage points for New Year’s Eve fireworks and residents do not have to lay claim to viewing sites two days in advance.
  • The politicians are hardly here, despite the headlines to the contrary:  Next time you hear someone bag Canberra, have a think about it.  Was the context something like “Canberra are fools for considering the Malaysian solution” or “Canberra to introduce carbon pricing”?  This is not Canberra:  it’s the politicians that the rest of Australia sends here.  Canberra only has two MPs and two senators.
  • It is the most under governed city in Australia, as demonstrated in my submission (no. 48 – have a look, I’ve included a table showing how many politicians there are per head of population) to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Territories Self Government Amendment Legislation.
  • It was the first and leading jurisdiction to introduce Human Rights legislation.
  • The roads and bike paths are fabulous.  It takes ten minutes to go anywhere.
  • Sporting facilities are marvellous.
  • It’s close enough to Sydney or Melbourne if retail therapy or big theatre is prescribed.
  • The economy was the best in the land during the global financial crisis (make sure you look at the link).
  • The organ donation rate on a donor per million population rate is more than anywhere else in Australia.
  • There is no smoking anywhere that food is served.  Anywhere.  We non smokers can sit in the best spots at restaurants without smoke billowing over our meals.  Truly marvellous.

So, Joe and Wendy.  There are about 6 million Australians who argue about the merits of Sydney or Melbourne.  However, Canberra is a conglomeration of both cities.  Originally, we all came from Sydney or Melbourne.  Now many of us are born here.  Sometimes people come here from other jurisdictions and from other countries.  We are welcoming of refugees and we do well with this population.  Because of our diverse backgrounds, we support Australian rules, rugby, rugby league, soccer, basketball, netball, anything that crawls up a wall in competition.  We have the most successful Australian rugby union and women’s basketball teams (Brumbies and Canberra Caps respectively) which is not bad in a population of approximately 350,000 people.

So when you both get sick of being in the car, or camping out for days for a good spot to watch the fire crackers, or dealing with rude people who believe it is their right to smoke wherever they feel like it, think about joining us here in the nation’s capital.

But don’t tell anyone.  It’s the best kept secret in Australia!