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Down with Miserabilism!

By John Hargreaves - 23 October 2017 19

Canberra

Lucky to live in Canberra: So what’s with all the misery, people? 

When I left the Legislative Assembly, I vowed not to become one of those grumpy old retirees who constantly address their relevance deprivation by writing letters to the Canberra Times and Chronicle, bagging out our great city.

With two exceptions, I have kept faith with that vow. The first is a letter I wrote to the Crimes about refugees and their appalling treatment on Manus Island and in PNG. I just couldn’t help myself. But, in my defence, it was only the once and it was not bagging Canberra.

The second is my postings on RiotACT. I was invited to contribute to RiotACT on leaving politics because maybe I had a view on issues which could start conversations.  This is how I have approached my posts. Sometimes I am upset about a few things but mainly I try to start a chatfest off, and to a large degree (but not in all cases) it has succeeded.  So, thanks to those of you who have engaged, even those who have bagged me out without mercy.

Departing slightly from the subject, I have noticed in my world travels, by reading the local rags, that this syndrome is not unique to Canberra. It is alive elsewhere in Oz and indeed, in all the countries I have visited in the past five years. But we should be better than that.

I see those perennial letter-writers fit into two groups; Those who live here and those who don’t. It really irritates me ­– and I hope all Canberrans ­– when I see criticism of our politics (both sides), our infrastructure (light rail, urban amenity, planning laws to name a few), our “affluence” and our socially progressive tendencies, from people who live in New South Wales.  If I see another bagging from a burgher from Bungendore, Braidwood or a jock from Jerrabomberra or some whinge-artist from Queanbeyan, I’m gonna throw up. It is significant that Canberrans don’t bag those places, don’t publicly criticise NSW politics, don’t cast judgment on the quality of life and amenity in those places, so what gives them the right to bag us? Was is not Canberra that used to be called “Struggle Town”?. 

The poor reputation Canberra has is from those itinerant gypsies who come into town, create hot air and irrelevant noise from the Big Campsite on the Hill and then bugger off home, bagging “Canberra“ when they get there! The same guys and gals who only know Kingston, Manuka and a bit of Civic, usually eateries or watering holes. The same types who have never been to Spence, Lyneham, Wright, Curtin, Mawson or Wanniassa. It is the guys from the other states and territories who give us a bad name. Our own citizens don’t need to help them!

Having got that off my chest, I’d like to take aim at those home-grown wrinklies who give our city a bad name.

You will all know the names of those “contributors” to the malaise of self-criticism because it is always the same old names. But where once we could put up with their rantings – their pet subjects – the landscape has changed a bit. 

We really have only one newspaper in this town. I don’t count the Canberra Weekly or the City News, because they really are freebies with some commentary or social pages wrapped in advertising.

The Fairfax people own the Canberra Times, the Chronicle (in all its forms) and the Queanbeyan Age. Shame that we don’t have competition but hey, it is what it is. But here’s the rub; all these papers go across the country electronically. They are in the digital age, so our whingeing goes viral. That’s why you will see contributions from further afield than the Capital Region, and this is why any damage we do to ourselves will go Oz-wide.

The old grumpies (and old they are, let me assure you), usually calling on a long left profession for validity, will spout forth on all manner of subjects. They complain about the light rail even though they are not affected by it, won’t ever use it, don’t use the busses, have a two-person, three-car family (with usually a 4-wheel drive which has never been off-road), have been out of the paid workforce for over a decade, complain about the lack of green space but don’t go to them (a glance at the myriad of green spaces in town during the day as I drive past shows a distinct lack of folks gambolling), complain about the rampant graffiti and testify that they have been to graffiti-free cities overseas (clearly they have been chauffeur driven and not gone by train).

They complain about rate “hikes” over the past 10 years, the lack of bus routes – even giving the route numbers, complain about the lack of soul in the city (never having been to Braddon or Kingston at night for a meal and a chat), complain about building height, setbacks and architectural form, and yearn for the halcyon days of yesteryear.

Well, how about celebrating in writing our successes as a city?

It is still the most beautiful city in Oz. I have been to Geneva, London, Paris, New York, Buenos Aires, Rome, Beijing, Wellington, and Washington. I’ve been to Nairobi, Colombo, Honiara, Suva, Bangkok, Vientiane, Phnom Penn, Hanoi, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Port Vila, and Noumea. Of all these capital cities, Canberra is the most beautiful of them all. It has the cleanest air, the gorgeous sights and smells of flowers and trees in Spring, the breath-taking views of the Brindabellas, the easiest way to go from one part of the city to another (it takes me no more than 30 minutes in bad traffic to get from Wanniassa to Evatt!) and this is unheard of in the larger cities. It has soul and vibrancy.

We have friendly people who are generous, helpful, articulate and educated. We have a lot to be thankful for. I thank successive governments, Federal and Territorial for taking us from a sheep station to a city which can hold its own anywhere in the world.

So enough already with the whingeing. Get a life, folks! Get out a bit more and enjoy our city and stop wallowing in the art of miserablism.

I just hope that some of those retired old grumpies read this post, have themselves referred to it or have some right-minded citizen visit them and disconnect their internet, remove all writing materials, and save the rest of us from their unreasonable bleatings. Freedom of speech be buggered! Our city deserves better! 

What’s Your opinion?


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19 Responses to
Down with Miserabilism!
John Hargreaves 8:58 am 25 Oct 17
Elias Hallaj 8:33 am 25 Oct 17

Well said John.

This was my favourite bit so I’m repeating it here so people can read it again.

“I just hope that some of those retired old grumpies read this post, have themselves referred to it or have some right-minded citizen visit them and disconnect their internet, remove all writing materials, and save the rest of us from their unreasonable bleatings. Freedom of speech be buggered! Our city deserves better! ”

dungfungus 7:48 am 25 Oct 17

chewy14 said :

I am a Rabbit™ said :

John Hargreaves said :

Futureproof said :

No need to be miserable when you can travel the world and live comfortably on a politician’s pension

I have a CSS pension and a SMPF.

If anything admitting that further reinforces the point Futureproof made. CSS was born in an age of entitlement where public servants took significant advantage of taxpayers and we’re paying the price for that now. If you’re on the CSS (or PSS), that’s the taxpayers money you’re using – not yours.

The financial burden that the rest of Australians face because of those absurd government pension schemes makes centrelink dole bludgers pale in comparison…. Nobody can plead ignorance in it either – everyone knew very well what the implications of a defined benefits scheme was.

This is incorrect, the money is not “taxpayers money”, it’s earned income as part of public servant’s salary packages. Well unless you think every public servants fortnightly pay is also “taxpayers money” that is.

Extremely generous retirement provisions? No doubt. But as you say, everyone knew what the implications of such schemes were, so they were factored in to overall remuneration packages by employers and prospective employees alike.

The only ones to blame for such schemes as these are the successive government’s who started them and refused to fund them appropriately at the time the benefit was earned. At least the Future Fund goes some way to fixing the problem of unfunded liabilities.

Good analysis. I think the Future Fund only applies to Federal public servants whereas the ACT has over $7 billion in unfunded ACT public service pension liabilities.

dungfungus 7:44 am 25 Oct 17

Neal said :

My partner and I have recently completed a 4 month camping trip through northern and central Australia – I should add we used tents and avoided the ‘grey nomads’ 🙂
Apart from one person everyone else we spoke to about Canberra had only good things to say about the place. There was also a surprising number of people around the country who have connections here in one way or another, via family or work.
An interesting one was the owner of the caravan park in Coober Pedy. He was a former resident of Belconnen.

Do any of those people heaping praise on Canberra currently live here? It used to be a great place and for those who can afford it it probably still is.

And what have you got against the “grey nomads”? Is it the fact that you have a $500 tent and they have $50,000 caravans?

chewy14 9:15 pm 24 Oct 17

I am a Rabbit™ said :

John Hargreaves said :

Futureproof said :

No need to be miserable when you can travel the world and live comfortably on a politician’s pension

I have a CSS pension and a SMPF.

If anything admitting that further reinforces the point Futureproof made. CSS was born in an age of entitlement where public servants took significant advantage of taxpayers and we’re paying the price for that now. If you’re on the CSS (or PSS), that’s the taxpayers money you’re using – not yours.

The financial burden that the rest of Australians face because of those absurd government pension schemes makes centrelink dole bludgers pale in comparison…. Nobody can plead ignorance in it either – everyone knew very well what the implications of a defined benefits scheme was.

This is incorrect, the money is not “taxpayers money”, it’s earned income as part of public servant’s salary packages. Well unless you think every public servants fortnightly pay is also “taxpayers money” that is.

Extremely generous retirement provisions? No doubt. But as you say, everyone knew what the implications of such schemes were, so they were factored in to overall remuneration packages by employers and prospective employees alike.

The only ones to blame for such schemes as these are the successive government’s who started them and refused to fund them appropriately at the time the benefit was earned. At least the Future Fund goes some way to fixing the problem of unfunded liabilities.

Lucy Baker 7:01 pm 24 Oct 17

Neal said :

My partner and I have recently completed a 4 month camping trip through northern and central Australia – I should add we used tents and avoided the ‘grey nomads’ 🙂
Apart from one person everyone else we spoke to about Canberra had only good things to say about the place. There was also a surprising number of people around the country who have connections here in one way or another, via family or work.
An interesting one was the owner of the caravan park in Coober Pedy. He was a former resident of Belconnen.

What do you dislike about grey nomads?

No_Nose 4:28 pm 24 Oct 17

Neal said :

Apart from one person everyone else we spoke to about Canberra had only good things to say about the place. .

I’ve got to say that contrasts sharply with my experience. When meeting other Aussies overseas (or even when travelling interstate ) the most common conversation I end up in is similar to this: “Where are you from?” ……. “Canberra.” …….. “Oh, (awkward pause). Sorry.”

bj_ACT 2:34 pm 24 Oct 17

I think you make some really good points, especially about the Politicians who never make it down to Tuggers or out to Belco.

What concerns me however, is the Canberran’s who complain about a new unit in Yarralumla or a Library closure in Kingston and regularly get the media and political backing to have their issue addressed and the decision reversed. These people are usually the biggest complainers about Canberra and get they best results because if their ability to whinge.

However, you hear little public complaint and MLA support about real issues that affect poor and working poor Canberran’s.

But where I disagree with you, is when I think about someone from outer Canberra Suburbs who have seen their rates more than double, but their house prices remain static. I believe they have every right to complain. These are the same people who had their Schools close, Bus Services removed and local Shops shut whilst paying much more in Government charges, taxes and fees.

I hoped when you were MLA that you would complain and stand up against your leader and party when you shut 3 Primary schools and 2 Pre Schools in Kambah, when you got rid of the Action Bus up Gaunson Cres in Wanniassa and when you oversaw the removal of small suburban shopping Centre’s at locations across Kambah & Wanniassa such as Sprigbett St, Livingstone Ave & Sternberg Cres. These were local issues that deserved attention, but got none.

Part of the reason the people you mention don’t make it down to Wanniassa or Spence is that successive ACT Governments have reduced services, facilities and infrastructure growth in the outer suburbs and focussed expenditure, growth and development into the Centre of Canberra.

Lucy Baker 2:29 pm 24 Oct 17

I am a Rabbit™ said :

John Hargreaves said :

Futureproof said :

No need to be miserable when you can travel the world and live comfortably on a politician’s pension

I have a CSS pension and a SMPF.

If anything admitting that further reinforces the point Futureproof made. CSS was born in an age of entitlement where public servants took significant advantage of taxpayers and we’re paying the price for that now. If you’re on the CSS (or PSS), that’s the taxpayers money you’re using – not yours.

The financial burden that the rest of Australians face because of those absurd government pension schemes makes centrelink dole bludgers pale in comparison…. Nobody can plead ignorance in it either – everyone knew very well what the implications of a defined benefits scheme was.

Indeed. My CSS colleague is an APS5 on I guess $80,000 maximum. When he retires at 54/9 in two years, he tells me, his superannuation will be higher than his top wage- he’ll be on $96,000. How the hell are we paying for this?

Lucy Baker 2:25 pm 24 Oct 17

“They complain about light rail even though they are not affected by it…”

Ever single Canberran is paying for it. Who are these mythical Canberrans whose hip-pockets are not affected by the light rail?

Neal 12:33 pm 24 Oct 17

My partner and I have recently completed a 4 month camping trip through northern and central Australia – I should add we used tents and avoided the ‘grey nomads’ 🙂
Apart from one person everyone else we spoke to about Canberra had only good things to say about the place. There was also a surprising number of people around the country who have connections here in one way or another, via family or work.
An interesting one was the owner of the caravan park in Coober Pedy. He was a former resident of Belconnen.

I am a Rabbit™ 12:29 pm 24 Oct 17

John Hargreaves said :

Futureproof said :

No need to be miserable when you can travel the world and live comfortably on a politician’s pension

I have a CSS pension and a SMPF.

If anything admitting that further reinforces the point Futureproof made. CSS was born in an age of entitlement where public servants took significant advantage of taxpayers and we’re paying the price for that now. If you’re on the CSS (or PSS), that’s the taxpayers money you’re using – not yours.

The financial burden that the rest of Australians face because of those absurd government pension schemes makes centrelink dole bludgers pale in comparison…. Nobody can plead ignorance in it either – everyone knew very well what the implications of a defined benefits scheme was.

John Hargreaves 11:10 am 24 Oct 17

Futureproof said :

No need to be miserable when you can travel the world and live comfortably on a politician’s pension

Just to correct the record, I don’t have a pension from the Assembly. I have a CSS pension and a SMPF.

Andrea Charlton 10:59 am 24 Oct 17

I heartily agree that we’ve had about enough Canberra bashing. While there is always room for improvement, and no organisation should ever be exempt from criticism, the thoughtless coupling of our city with the activities of the Commonwealth Parliament is always to our unfair disadvantage. Thumbs up.

Futureproof 5:19 pm 23 Oct 17

No need to be miserable when you can travel the world and live comfortably on a politician’s pension

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