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Singapore and Canberra are not all that far apart

By Kim Huynh - 21 September 2016 16

Singapore Airlines

As Canberrans depart for Singapore on the first direct flights out today, Sumithri Venketasubramanian tells us what it’s like to go in the other direction.

OMG where am I?!

I know now that it’s common for people who arrive at Canberra Airport for the first time to react like I did: Where am I? Has the flight been diverted to a remote town in the middle of the continent? Have I been tricked? Perhaps I’m dreaming? Nope, my ears have popped and the flight attendant definitely said “Canberra”. This must be it.

I cringed at having to pay for a trolley at the airport (they’re free at Changi and I didn’t have any change). And I was surprised to see that there was no train into the city. Then I found out that there was no rail system at all. This added to my impression that as a capital city, Canberra is somehow incomplete.

So I resigned myself to jumping into a cab and cringed again as I watched the dollars on the meter rack up. Like many established residents, I was already griping about public transport and the price of living.

At first I missed Singaporean food: always available, inexpensive, anything you could want and lots more that you wouldn’t. And of course I missed my family and friends.

I even thought of the less desirable aspects of Singaporean life, like the exorbitant fines on everything from littering ($1000) to bringing durians onto the train ($500). There’s a tourist t-shirt that says, ‘Singapore is a fine city’. I’ve sometimes wondered if you could get fined for wearing it.

Hitting the ground running

So this was going to be home, at least for the next four years. And thankfully it wasn’t long before I warmed to Canberra.

It’s clean and highly organised just like Singapore. There’s lots of trees and greenery. The air is so very clean. I’ve come to treasure the wide open spaces that evoked such anxiety in me on the plane. The sky is big and the mountains are impressive without being imposing.

And I’ve found Canberrans to be, by and large, lovely and generous.

It helps to exercise. Indeed, I’ve come to realise that Canberrans are the fittest and most culturally active people in the country.

Not long after arriving I went for a run to get to know the city better. As I crossed Commonwealth Avenue and entered the parliamentary triangle I was I struck by the most wonderful vista and knew I could get used to this place. Lake Burley Griffin got me good.

Race matters

Many Asians coming to Australia are worried about confronting racism (the re-emergence of Pauline Hanson and her party hasn’t helped). I had read lots of accounts of racist encounters in online forums from students and new arrivals. Thankfully, I’ve never personally experienced it, but people close to me have, regularly so.

It’s also valuable in this regard to compare and contrast Canberra with home. Growing up Indian in Chinese-dominated Singapore, I’m only just beginning to understand and unlearn the insecurities and inferiority complex that comes with being me.

It’s there on my national ID card: ‘Sumithri Venketasubramanian – Indian’. I used to think it was just a label. But it’s more than that and labels themselves can be a big deal, especially for racial and ethnic minorities.

Back home, talking about race is a no-no. Keeping the peace tends to mean hushing things up. The indigenous peoples are not acknowledged as the original inhabitants of the land. There are racial quotas on public housing among other policies, but discrimination boils beneath the surface. I haven’t been here quite long enough to judge, but over time I hope to learn more about how Australia struggles with race.

What I can say confidently about both Canberra and Singapore is what Bill Clinton said about the US: that the bad things are no match for what’s good about it.

Canberra isn’t home yet, but I feel like someday it could be.

What were your impressions of Canberra when you first arrived? How would you compare and contrast Canberra with Singapore? What does it mean to be Canberran?

Sumithri Venketasubramanian studies environmental studies at the ANU. She is the social media manager for Kim Huynh, Independent Candidate for Ginninderra (which is why this appears under Kim’s byline until Sumithri gets one set up). Check out their work at GoKimbo.com.au or on Facebook.

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16 Responses to
Singapore and Canberra are not all that far apart
avi 11:48 pm 22 Sep 16

chief Minister can go all round the world to get planes for Mr.Snow – but can’t get an ACTION bus stop at the terminal to go to Civic & Woden

shame

Avi

JC 2:04 pm 22 Sep 16

dungfungus said :

The weather could not have been worse for the inaugural flight of an SIA aging B777. Some of these models are actually 31 years old and unfortunately for those of us who can’t fit in econmy class and can’t afford business we will never be able to use them.

Ill informed as usual, you are out by about 10 years. The oldest 777 is 21 years of age. First commercial flight was in 1995, you do the maths.

Besides Singapore airlines does not have a single example that age in their fleet. Their oldest one is actually 15 years of age, next Tuesday actually. Want to fly on a 21 year old 777 fly United, British Airways or Thai airways, plus a whole raft of other airlines. All said aircraft are fine for purpose, but yeah at 21 reaching the end of their useful lives in tier one airlines.

The variant of the 777-200ER that Singapore airlines is flying to Canberra are all aged 13 or 14 years of age, and all had an internal refit within the last 3-4 years. So not sure what age has to do with it at all.

I actually flew on the very aircraft that operated the inaugural Canberra flight just last week (Singapore to Hong Kong) and nothing wrong with it at all, though yes the in-flight entertainment system is not as good as what you would find on SIA’s newer aircraft, but still better than most airlines. I return from my Asian jaunt next week and will be coming back on the direct flight, which will be good. (most of my flying is on SIA these days)

Also not sure your concern about being too big for economy and too poor for business class. What exactly do you want Singapore airlines, or any airline for that matter to do for you? SIA does have premium economy, though not on their regional fleet, which is what they operate to Canberra.

And yes the aircraft flies to Wellington, then back to Canberra then Singapore. At first I was sceptical about the timings, but

dungfungus 9:59 am 22 Sep 16

Kim Huynh said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

Kim Huynh said :

but have no problem with some members of the GoKimbo2016 team being pro light rail. In fact, we disagree on all sorts of things. I reckon it invigorates our meetings and arguments and is the way democracy and discussion should be. K

That is exactly how Australia has ended up in the mess its federal government has been operating for the last decade. The pros and cons are so close in number to each other that consensus can’t be reached on any subject and the government pretty much fails to implement any of its election policies or promises. We end up with a parliament unable to govern the country. They simply pass the time bickering in the lower house, occasionally scraping something through to the perfectly balanced senate, only to have it turned down by the fence-sitting independents.
When was the last time we had a government who didn’t have to make compromises to pass a budget or create a new law? Our political arena has been stagnant in terms of action, consistently in the headlines for a leader being stabbed in the back by his/her own party, only to go to another election that yields exactly the same outcome even though the figurehead and color of their tunic is different.
To quote Abraham Lincoln, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”.
If a minor party can’t agree over a major election issue, how will they have any credibility when it comes to making any other decisions that affect it’s constituents?
Democracy works by people voting for the party that represents most of the views or opinions that agree with them. They won’t vote for a party that can’t make up its mind or is a 50/50 bet. Perhaps you need to take a stance one way or the other instead of misleading the electorate with campaign material stating one thing, but secretly leaning the other way.

I empathise with the frustration, but don’t think the problem is wholly or even primarily with minor parties and minority government. There’s plenty of minority governments and power sharing arrangements (NZ, Belgium) that work pretty well. And regardless of what you think of the Gillard era, that government was not stagnant despite the divisiveness across the parliament and in the party. I’m for promoting decency and moderation (certainly not secrecy), which I hope can address the political malaise that you rightly condemn.

So, what has this got to do with Canberra and Singapore?

Kim Huynh 9:47 am 22 Sep 16

wildturkeycanoe said :

Kim Huynh said :

but have no problem with some members of the GoKimbo2016 team being pro light rail. In fact, we disagree on all sorts of things. I reckon it invigorates our meetings and arguments and is the way democracy and discussion should be. K

That is exactly how Australia has ended up in the mess its federal government has been operating for the last decade. The pros and cons are so close in number to each other that consensus can’t be reached on any subject and the government pretty much fails to implement any of its election policies or promises. We end up with a parliament unable to govern the country. They simply pass the time bickering in the lower house, occasionally scraping something through to the perfectly balanced senate, only to have it turned down by the fence-sitting independents.
When was the last time we had a government who didn’t have to make compromises to pass a budget or create a new law? Our political arena has been stagnant in terms of action, consistently in the headlines for a leader being stabbed in the back by his/her own party, only to go to another election that yields exactly the same outcome even though the figurehead and color of their tunic is different.
To quote Abraham Lincoln, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”.
If a minor party can’t agree over a major election issue, how will they have any credibility when it comes to making any other decisions that affect it’s constituents?
Democracy works by people voting for the party that represents most of the views or opinions that agree with them. They won’t vote for a party that can’t make up its mind or is a 50/50 bet. Perhaps you need to take a stance one way or the other instead of misleading the electorate with campaign material stating one thing, but secretly leaning the other way.

I empathise with the frustration, but don’t think the problem is wholly or even primarily with minor parties and minority government. There’s plenty of minority governments and power sharing arrangements (NZ, Belgium) that work pretty well. And regardless of what you think of the Gillard era, that government was not stagnant despite the divisiveness across the parliament and in the party. I’m for promoting decency and moderation (certainly not secrecy), which I hope can address the political malaise that you rightly condemn.

Kim Huynh 9:19 am 22 Sep 16

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

Kim Huynh said :

I’ll leave the comments about Singaporean politics to others, but have no problem with some members of the GoKimbo2016 team being pro light rail. In fact, we disagree on all sorts of things. I reckon it invigorates our meetings and arguments and is the way democracy and discussion should be. K

Interesting indeed. Not the Singaporean politics, but the fact you have someone who thinks canberra should have a rail system as your campaign manager. I gotta say, I respect that. I wish you shared the same view as her, as you know I am avidly pro-LR, but even though I am a Greens member, I love independent candidates in general, regardless of if you are anti or pro-LR. I think the more independent candidates elected, the better we would all be, i really hope at least 1 or 2 get up this election, from any of the independent candidates running in any of the electorates.

If it were up to me, I would mandate a 20% quote of seats to non-party affiliated candidates, but I doubt the major parties would ever support something as radical as that, even my own beloved Greens (although I could be wrong on that, totally speculating here). Politics should always involve discussion of all sides and viewpoints and any candidate or party that stacks it’s staffers with yes-men/women instead of independent thinkers is going about it completely the wrong way in my opinion. If you can’t stand to hear an opposing viewpoint as a politician from your own staffer, your going to have a really hard time dealing with the part of the electorate that actively does not like you or your policies/party (no-one will ever please everyone at the same time).

BTW I saw some of your signs today Kim along William Hovell Drive, glad to see so many independent candidate road signs popping up around Canberra to compete with the wall to wall Labor/Liberal signs everywhere at the moment. Personally, I think you have the best sign design I have seen so far Kim, well done on going the bold choice of not including your picture and going with an interesting design instead, it really stands out in comparison and I think it is by far the best looking sign of any candidate I have seen so far.

If this is any indication of what you would be like as an elected member, then I wish you all the best in making it over the line in October, even though you don’t support LR (am determined to try and change your mind on that though over time, might not succeed, but i’ll still try). P.S. That pro-LR op-ed is still coming, just been on holiday for almost 2 weeks (thus my not commenting here recently), am working on it over this weekend, hope to have it up sometime next week pending my overall busy schedule atm. 🙂

Thanks and respect Mordd, sincerely so. Looking forward to your pro-LR article, sincerely so again.

I’ve got a mea culpa re the ACT Greens and independents. I published an article in another Canberra news outlet yesterday on how the major parties (including the Greens) have shaped the electoral landscape to make it very difficult for independents. It was unfair on the Greens who have been generally fair and just when it comes to boundaries and funding.

There’s a lot on the RiotACT on political signs – their utility, unsightliness, etc. I’ll try to write something today on the topic and baring it all for politics. Two week holiday sounds good Mordd.

Deref 8:24 am 22 Sep 16

Very entertaining look at first impressions. Thanks.

dungfungus 7:59 am 22 Sep 16

dungfungus said :

It is stated in the first paragraph that Canberrans are departing for Singapore on the first direct flight today but the flight actually came in from Singapore so shouldn’t it be that the Canberrans are departing for Wellington or does the aircraft return from Wellington tonight to pick up Singapore bound passengers?

The weather could not have been worse for the inaugural flight of an SIA aging B777. Some of these models are actually 31 years old and unfortunately for those of us who can’t fit in economy class and can’t afford business we will never be able to use them.

Just to clarify the point of aircraft ages, Boeing 777s were first delivered 31 years ago however the one that flew into Canberra yesterday (9V-SRP) was delivered to Singapore Airlines in 2003 so it is only a young 13 years old.

wildturkeycanoe 7:34 am 22 Sep 16

Kim Huynh said :

but have no problem with some members of the GoKimbo2016 team being pro light rail. In fact, we disagree on all sorts of things. I reckon it invigorates our meetings and arguments and is the way democracy and discussion should be. K

That is exactly how Australia has ended up in the mess its federal government has been operating for the last decade. The pros and cons are so close in number to each other that consensus can’t be reached on any subject and the government pretty much fails to implement any of its election policies or promises. We end up with a parliament unable to govern the country. They simply pass the time bickering in the lower house, occasionally scraping something through to the perfectly balanced senate, only to have it turned down by the fence-sitting independents.
When was the last time we had a government who didn’t have to make compromises to pass a budget or create a new law? Our political arena has been stagnant in terms of action, consistently in the headlines for a leader being stabbed in the back by his/her own party, only to go to another election that yields exactly the same outcome even though the figurehead and color of their tunic is different.
To quote Abraham Lincoln, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”.
If a minor party can’t agree over a major election issue, how will they have any credibility when it comes to making any other decisions that affect it’s constituents?
Democracy works by people voting for the party that represents most of the views or opinions that agree with them. They won’t vote for a party that can’t make up its mind or is a 50/50 bet. Perhaps you need to take a stance one way or the other instead of misleading the electorate with campaign material stating one thing, but secretly leaning the other way.

Mordd / Chris Richar 3:16 am 22 Sep 16

Kim Huynh said :

I’ll leave the comments about Singaporean politics to others, but have no problem with some members of the GoKimbo2016 team being pro light rail. In fact, we disagree on all sorts of things. I reckon it invigorates our meetings and arguments and is the way democracy and discussion should be. K

Interesting indeed. Not the Singaporean politics, but the fact you have someone who thinks canberra should have a rail system as your campaign manager. I gotta say, I respect that. I wish you shared the same view as her, as you know I am avidly pro-LR, but even though I am a Greens member, I love independent candidates in general, regardless of if you are anti or pro-LR. I think the more independent candidates elected, the better we would all be, i really hope at least 1 or 2 get up this election, from any of the independent candidates running in any of the electorates.

If it were up to me, I would mandate a 20% quote of seats to non-party affiliated candidates, but I doubt the major parties would ever support something as radical as that, even my own beloved Greens (although I could be wrong on that, totally speculating here). Politics should always involve discussion of all sides and viewpoints and any candidate or party that stacks it’s staffers with yes-men/women instead of independent thinkers is going about it completely the wrong way in my opinion. If you can’t stand to hear an opposing viewpoint as a politician from your own staffer, your going to have a really hard time dealing with the part of the electorate that actively does not like you or your policies/party (no-one will ever please everyone at the same time).

BTW I saw some of your signs today Kim along William Hovell Drive, glad to see so many independent candidate road signs popping up around Canberra to compete with the wall to wall Labor/Liberal signs everywhere at the moment. Personally, I think you have the best sign design I have seen so far Kim, well done on going the bold choice of not including your picture and going with an interesting design instead, it really stands out in comparison and I think it is by far the best looking sign of any candidate I have seen so far.

If this is any indication of what you would be like as an elected member, then I wish you all the best in making it over the line in October, even though you don’t support LR (am determined to try and change your mind on that though over time, might not succeed, but i’ll still try). P.S. That pro-LR op-ed is still coming, just been on holiday for almost 2 weeks (thus my not commenting here recently), am working on it over this weekend, hope to have it up sometime next week pending my overall busy schedule atm. 🙂

dungfungus 8:08 pm 21 Sep 16

Kim Huynh said :

I’ll leave the comments about Singaporean politics to others, but have no problem with some members of the GoKimbo2016 team being pro light rail. In fact, we disagree on all sorts of things. I reckon it invigorates our meetings and arguments and is the way democracy and discussion should be. K

You are learning about politics very fast.

In fact, I wasn’t looking for a comment, I was simply stating an historical fact about Singapore following the comments about Singapore on the post.

Kim Huynh 6:26 pm 21 Sep 16

I’ll leave the comments about Singaporean politics to others, but have no problem with some members of the GoKimbo2016 team being pro light rail. In fact, we disagree on all sorts of things. I reckon it invigorates our meetings and arguments and is the way democracy and discussion should be. K

dungfungus 1:57 pm 21 Sep 16

Canberra, being the capital of Australia may be somewhat “incomplete” but then again, according to Lee Kuan Yew, Australians could end up being “the poor white trash of Asia”.

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/white-trash-warning-spurred-australia-to-be-better-abbott

devils_advocate 11:52 am 21 Sep 16

You can’t realistically get around the wider Canberra region without a car – we don’t have an integrated public transport/MRT – but at least you won’t need a Certificate of Entitlement to buy a car.
Canberra doesn’t impose limits on freedoms such as the right to peaceful protest. However, by and large people are so complacent there are no protests.
Canberra could learn a thing or two from Lee Kwan Yew’s (sp?) approach to corruption. There are a lot of shady deals and planning approvals that get done in all quarters.
Construction moves at a snail’s pace in Canberra due to the restrictive planning laws (unless there’s corruption involved, see above). So it won’t be the constantly changing skyline of Marina Bay.
You will see chewing gum on the pavement.
Alcohol is not taxed as heavily as it is in Singapore, but you will pay through the nose if you want someone to serve it to you – labour is prohibitively costly.
Similarly, Canberra does have both a Papa Rich and a Pepper Lunch, but it will cost much more than comparable food in Singapore.

dungfungus 11:50 am 21 Sep 16

It is stated in the first paragraph that Canberrans are departing for Singapore on the first direct flight today but the flight actually came in from Singapore so shouldn’t it be that the Canberrans are departing for Wellington or does the aircraft return from Wellington tonight to pick up Singapore bound passengers?

The weather could not have been worse for the inaugural flight of an SIA aging B777. Some of these models are actually 31 years old and unfortunately for those of us who can’t fit in econmy class and can’t afford business we will never be able to use them.

bringontheevidence 11:30 am 21 Sep 16

Complaints about no rail system in a post posted by an anti-light rail candidate…?

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