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How government propaganda may kill light rail (and the rest of Canberra)

By Paul Costigan - 19 August 2015 76

NrthBourne-P1020071

I support the introduction of light rail networks across Canberra.

We should not be having this debate in 2015. The first tracks should have been laid down in the late 1950s or at least by the mid 1960s.

I blame the former NCDC for this oversight. This lack of light rail transport infrastructure most likely came about because of the NCDC’s commitment to roads and even more roads and how wonderful Canberra was to be if we all drove more cars.

Today in Canberra we have the very tragic situation whereby far too many do not trust the government to deliver a great piece of transport infrastructure and to build an engaging urban environment down the redeveloped Northbourne Avenue corridor.

What people are now witnessing is an on-going process of degrading Canberra’s once famous public amenity. Naturally, the politicians have to take responsibility for such decisions.

However, the main cause rests squarely with their bureaucratic agencies that oversee land sales and the subsequent redevelopments.

The planning minister was recently asked on air: “Who is running planning in Canberra — Is it the LDA (Land Development Agency)?”

He did not sound convincing with his hesitant response.

Several community sectors are being messed around by a bureaucracy that has an unhealthy culture and is convinced that it is entitled to make decisions despite the high rates of distress caused to residents. The age of entitlement remains in place within these agencies.

Master-plan-Feb-2015_

For instance, there are the mind games that have been played with the communities in and around Telopea and Manuka as well as Yarralumla. As for that infamous and not-quite-open-yet Westside project, the less said the better.

Meanwhile, Dickson residents are currently receiving propaganda relating to the Dickson Parklands (Section 72).

For such precinct redevelopments, residents are confronted by consultants who deliver a well-rehearsed form of token consultations. The result of all this expenditure? PR documents that pretend to be master plans, but are not. These documents are superficial at best and designed to provide the case for the pre-determined outcomes – the sale of land and the subsequent developments.

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Propaganda that twists facts to suit the message and contains vague generalised data is widely used by particular ACT Government agencies when dealing with residents.

There is a high level of mistrust regarding how the ACT Government delivers major projects. Consequently much of the current information around the light rail is viewed as dubious. This situation is of the government’s own doing. It is a real shame.

This important and overdue transport initiative could have had much broader public support, if only the ACT Government had a track record of being honest and transparent with residents on so many other urban matters.

It is as if there has been an urban destruction unit secretly located within the chief minister’s portfolio.

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Many people still consider the concept of the light rail and the linked Northbourne redevelopments to be valuable initiatives. Logically, this is the next step in inner Canberra’s urban development.

The wish is that we could trust this government on planning and development. We wish our local politicians could change the culture of its development bureaucracy.

It is really simple. The first step is for the bureaucracies to stop paying for and being dependent communication officers employed to publish propaganda. The bureaucracy needs to be honest and transparent with information. The government and its agencies need to openly debate ideas, aspirations and issues with residents.

Our public sector development agencies need to stop hiding behind spin and propaganda. It is a waste of tax payers’ money and an insult to the electorate.

It is about earning and demonstrating respect.

Life would be then so much less stressful for so many people. And we could all enjoy the coming spring that much more.

What’s Your opinion?


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76 Responses to
How government propaganda may kill light rail (and the rest of Canberra)
Nilrem 4:01 pm 19 Aug 15

Can we not buy into the Government’s propaganda, and call it a “tram”? Isn’t that what it is?

Nilrem 3:59 pm 19 Aug 15

neanderthalsis said :

“Today in Canberra we have the very tragic situation whereby far too many do not trust the government to deliver a great piece of transport infrastructure”

For very good reason. There has not been a single major infrastructure project undertaken by this government that has been delivered on time and on budget. In fact, most of the recent infrastructure projects have been marred by some form of catastrophy, general stuff ups or simply getting the planning completely wrong. We have had bridges collapsing, bridges not being built because the contractor went broke and the gov didn’t bother having someone else complete it, single lane goat tracks as major arterial roads, project plans that change almost weekly and planning Ministers that don’t have any concept of community and business engagement.

Good one Paul. I support the light rail project as a much needed, and future-looking infrastructure investment. However, I also think that planning processes in the ACT are as dodgy as faaark, somewhat akin to a small country town or developing country. Look at the way Civic is being destroyed by the megamall. It is the duty of government to ensure that development serves the people, rather than enslaving them.

rubaiyat 2:56 pm 19 Aug 15

rommeldog56 said :

rubaiyat said :

I’d like the debate to get past the “You’re going to take my car from cold dead hands” …..

The OP correctly observes says “Propaganda that twists facts to suit the message and contains vague generalised data is widely used by particular ACT Government agencies when dealing with residents.

Comments & generalisations like “you’re going to take my car from cold dead hands” perfectly demonstrates what the OP (correctly) observes.

Whether coming from the ACT Government or pro lightrailers or not, as those impede agreement and unnesessarily divides & polarises opinion/support for the project.

Shame on me parodying the “ORL CARS ARE EEEEVILL!!!

Should i have had my caps lock on?

rubaiyat 2:46 pm 19 Aug 15

neanderthalsis said :

“Today in Canberra we have the very tragic situation whereby far too many do not trust the government to deliver a great piece of transport infrastructure”

For very good reason. There has not been a single major infrastructure project undertaken by this government that has been delivered on time and on budget. In fact, most of the recent infrastructure projects have been marred by some form of catastrophy, general stuff ups or simply getting the planning completely wrong. We have had bridges collapsing, bridges not being built because the contractor went broke and the gov didn’t bother having someone else complete it, single lane goat tracks as major arterial roads, project plans that change almost weekly and planning Ministers that don’t have any concept of community and business engagement.

The problem is not with just one side of politics, no matter how one eyed you are, both sides are duds.

Kate Carnell still pops up regularly on TV to remind us just why we got rid of her.

I can still remember the Hospital Implosion, Bruce Stadium and other cockups by the previous Liberal government. If anything this government has been moderately less disastrous considering they have been in power longer.

Given our small population and even smaller number willing to put up with the nastiness of politics, the calibre of those in both the Assembly and the bureaucracy is not high.

A reflection of the knowledge, prejudices and ability to think things through of the voters.

watto23 2:42 pm 19 Aug 15

rommeldog56 said :

Only ACT voters can change that – by keeping on voting ACT Gov’t out until they get the message – and get it right.

Which is perfectly fine, but don’t expect anything different from the Liberals. They have as many developer mates as Labor does. Now if only the ACT Libs would actually tell us what their plans for Canberra are, they may even win more votes, rather than this current rubbish in politics in Australia of just opposing everything the other party does.

John Moulis 1:56 pm 19 Aug 15

neanderthalsis said :

“Today in Canberra we have the very tragic situation whereby far too many do not trust the government to deliver a great piece of transport infrastructure”

For very good reason. There has not been a single major infrastructure project undertaken by this government that has been delivered on time and on budget. In fact, most of the recent infrastructure projects have been marred by some form of catastrophy, general stuff ups or simply getting the planning completely wrong. We have had bridges collapsing, bridges not being built because the contractor went broke and the gov didn’t bother having someone else complete it, single lane goat tracks as major arterial roads, project plans that change almost weekly and planning Ministers that don’t have any concept of community and business engagement.

Don’t forget bridges which have had to be completely rebuilt because they were so shoddily built and unsafe they couldn’t be used – ie: The Majura Parkway bridge over the Molonglo which was supposed to open with the rest of the Parkway a few months ago but which has had to undergo extensive remediation work which will delay the opening by almost a year.

neanderthalsis 1:42 pm 19 Aug 15

“Today in Canberra we have the very tragic situation whereby far too many do not trust the government to deliver a great piece of transport infrastructure”

For very good reason. There has not been a single major infrastructure project undertaken by this government that has been delivered on time and on budget. In fact, most of the recent infrastructure projects have been marred by some form of catastrophy, general stuff ups or simply getting the planning completely wrong. We have had bridges collapsing, bridges not being built because the contractor went broke and the gov didn’t bother having someone else complete it, single lane goat tracks as major arterial roads, project plans that change almost weekly and planning Ministers that don’t have any concept of community and business engagement.

Madam Cholet 1:27 pm 19 Aug 15

Good observations with which I agree. I have nothing against light rail. I do have lots to say about the way this particular initiative is being run, along with the Telopea School land debacle, Mr Fluffy and all the other things we can remember from the recent past.

Personally, I feel that under Andrew Barr this government has become arrogant and short-sighted. I have lived in Canberra for over 10 years and while I think it’s likely that they will remain in government after the next election (with the help of Mayor Rattenbury), it’s the first time that many may question the government on their actual performance and attitude to the people who put them into their positions of power.

I for one don’t think the Libs will do any better job, but a change of government wouldn’t hurt to rid ourselves of some arrogant personalities who think they can walk over voters. Not enough attention is being paid to the things which matter just as much as light rail – the convention centre which will work to bring more people and business into this city, a much needed city upgrade to put life back into a dying centre, the city to lake project, other transport options other than light freaking rail (because we don’t all live in Gungahlin, but who would know?).

rommeldog56 1:13 pm 19 Aug 15

BTW – this is a well written & thought out article Paul. Well done.

rommeldog56 1:01 pm 19 Aug 15

rubaiyat said :

I’ve spoken to Jim Gentleman and clear as day he thinks the public good has nothing to do with this and the government will simply meet its political imperative of a Gungahlin tram and take a hit at the poles but get away with it.

Agreed. Talking to Mick Gentleman and many others on both sides of ACT politics is like trying to talk logic & common sense to a machine that responds with a pre scripted response. And that won’t change with the influx of new members in the Legislative Assenbly either. Just more of the same – including poor planning & lack of integration of public transport.

Only ACT voters can change that – by keeping on voting ACT Gov’t out until they get the message – and get it right.

rommeldog56 12:55 pm 19 Aug 15

rubaiyat said :

I’d like the debate to get past the “You’re going to take my car from cold dead hands” …..

The OP correctly observes says “Propaganda that twists facts to suit the message and contains vague generalised data is widely used by particular ACT Government agencies when dealing with residents.

Comments & generalisations like “you’re going to take my car from cold dead hands” perfectly demonstrates what the OP (correctly) observes. Whether coming from the ACT Government or pro lightrailers or not, as those impede agreement and unnesessarily divides & polarises opinion/support for the project.

rubaiyat 12:06 pm 19 Aug 15

Spot on Paul.

Like you I can see both the logic and the need for the Light Rail, but the first route is so iffy.

I’d like the debate to get past the “You’re going to take my car from cold dead hands” to one that most can support which is a broad transport plan, built in stages along dedicated transport corridors, starting from the centre out and with urban planning to match.

I’ve spoken to Jim Gentleman and clear as day he thinks the public good has nothing to do with this and the government will simply meet its political imperative of a Gungahlin tram and take a hit at the poles but get away with it.

Unfortunately urban and transport planning is by the seat of your pants in this town and has been for the last 60 to 80 years. Greased by the real estate Ponzi scheme that is Canberra.

Acton 11:16 am 19 Aug 15

The Telopea link above is to the article, “Andrew Barr keeps redevelopment plan on track for Telopea tennis courts.”

True to form, both the Land Development Agency and Barr, acting for the interests of property developers, were trying to steamroll through another grubby land grab deal while ignoring the local community.

They are still seeking to flatten recreational woodland in Yarralumla to build a complex of multi-storey apartment blocks near the brickworks, which will double the population of the suburb and create an array of other problems for nearby suburbs, while ignoring a 4000+ petition against the development.

Hopefully the successful grassroots campaign initiated by parents of Telopea Park School to save their playing fields can be adopted to stop further LDA/Barr land grabs of other recreational areas, now or in the future, throughout Canberra:

http://www.telopeapnc.org.au/saveourplayingfields/

dungfungus 9:18 am 19 Aug 15

Yes, the LDA who are “allocated” raw land, develop it and then sell it, announcing a “profit”.
We don’t need a government run land development when the private sector could do a much better job without the bureaucracy that the LDA has.

Bajar 8:51 am 19 Aug 15

You’ve hit the nail on the head, Paul. The number of screw-ups that have occurred in major developments like this have lead me to have no faith in the light rail proposal.

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