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The mass exodus – do we love Canberra?

By Steven Bailey - 30 December 2014 28

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As many of us make the mass migration to the coast for the holiday period, this year, I decided to stay at home in Canberra. However, I did make a fleeting three-day visit to my family in the Victorian Highlands. A part of my heart remains there on the rocky roads, in the cold nights, and where the wind whispers contours into the long grass and tall trees. I returned to an almost similar Canberra: quite, long and leafy streets; closed shops; and a silence in which to ponder and recuperate.

Canberra’s silence is almost like the beginning of the play Under Milk Wood where it is summer yet ‘spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black’. Although there is the slight bustle of the city shopping rush, and of course there will be Summernats – whatever tickles your fancy. Neither tickle mine – except if you’re talking about a 60’s Valiant with the graceful grunt and torque of the slant-6 engine, its beautiful bench seats of red leather, and its 3 speed column shift! Sorry, I got a bit excited for a moment.

I wonder in this silence: do we love Canberra or do we love Canberra enough? Or do so many of us see it as a sterile and unreal city of perfect form yet characterless, and something from which to escape whenever it’s possible. Canberra is certainly too mature and intelligent a place for the parochialism of patriotism, but patriotism is different to love and pride. We hold love and pride for people; we have patriotism for things. And so I wonder, do we see Canberra as a thing; a machine for working the wheels of the nation, or do we see it more as a person with life, love, and feelings?

I have some wounds to lick after such a big year, and this is probably the most pensive piece I’ve ever written for the Riotact. I apologise in advance. But when we lick our wounds, we think of the future.

When I think of the future of Canberra, I wonder if it will be marked by the flaccidity of Floriade, the failure of the Centenary of Canberra celebrations – which left us with nothing, or the Multicultural Festival which is nothing more than a two-day frenzy of over-priced finger-food, and as about as cultural as an Hawaiian T-shirt on an obnoxious American tourist. The Multicultural Festival is nothing compared to what it used to be.

Or, will Canberra be more like a person… a person of culture and creativity; fun, fair, free, and with a glint in her eyes that pulls you in like an irresistible tide electric with her the charm, intelligence, and imagination? Will she have a talent for life and a song in her heart that unwraps you, and will people be brave enough to sing it with her?

Will she be beautiful, or will she be boring?

I love the coast, the games of monopoly gone wrong, and drinks with friends. I must admit that I’ve spent more summers by the beach than in Canberra. Yet something in me this summer asks: instead of leaving it; why not change it?

What’s Your opinion?


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28 Responses to
The mass exodus – do we love Canberra?
HiddenDragon 7:24 pm 01 Jan 15

“Do we love Canberra?” – I think many of us do, but in different ways. Some need periodic breaks away to satisfy urges and appetites which are not easily met here – but are happy to return once done with that, while others appreciate the relative peace of the annual exodus and are glad to stay here.

The reference to Under Milk Wood was a nice touch – something for the poetically inclined, but also for those with sharper inclinations (Llaregubb, looked at in a rear vision mirror…..), on which, I fear that we are being pushed in the direction of a yuppified, hipsterised Village of the Damned – although I still hope that common sense and, perhaps, a touch of “creative inertia” might yet save us.

Finally, Steven, I can well imagine a contemporary Man from Snowy River (or parts thereabouts) as the proud custodian of a lovingly preserved Valiant!

dungfungus 9:50 am 01 Jan 15

Pork Hunt said :

@dungfungus, thank you for pointing out all the extra costs of registering ones vehicle that were introduced after the never ever GST. Before any state or federal governments seek to increase the GST, there needs to be a Royal Comission into all the little levies and charges that they impose on us.

The Territories also have an input into increasing the GST. I know I am nitpicking but that is becoming the norm on this blog.
Looking at the registration renewal reminder, there is no reference to GST (I thought all invoices had to show GST separately). Apparently, the only scope for claiming back an Input Tax Credit (amount unknown) is to declare an entitlement to claim same.
Oh, and the CTPI Premium Fee shown includes a CTP Regulatory Levy of $1.00!

rommeldog56 8:02 am 01 Jan 15

Pork Hunt said :

@dungfungus, thank you for pointing out all the extra costs of registering ones vehicle that were introduced after the never ever GST. Before any state or federal governments seek to increase the GST, there needs to be a Royal Comission into all the little levies and charges that they impose on us.

This is a good point Pork Hunt. Howard did go to an election based on introducing the GST though – even if it was after “never, never”.

As I recall, the States agreed to progressively abolish taxes and levies such as payroll tax and stamp duties in return. However, I don’t think that that undertaking was never enshrined in legislation or in any written/published agreement, so it largely didn’t happen. But i distinctly recall it being stated as an offset.

Now, the States want an increase to the GST – mostly to make up for their burgeoning Territory/State budget deficites (the States/Territories get GST recvinues, not the Fed’s). Squabbles have already started between State Premiers about their share of the GST revenues (eg. WA want more).

Hell, even our own ex Chief Minister supported an increase to the GST – no doubt because of the Territory budget deficite that her and previous ACT Govt’s created by fiscal and ecomnomic mismanagement eg. (Light Rail when it simply can not be afforded at present).

I agree that this issue is worthy of a Royal Commission – Territory and State Govt’s MUST be held accountable and be legally forced to deliver at least some offsetting fees and charges BEFORE the GST next increases – because increase it will. And without better fiscal and economic management by the Territories/States, the GST will go on increasing periodically forever – its already much, much higher in other countries. It’s a sobering thought.

Pork Hunt 8:18 pm 31 Dec 14

@Steven Bailey, any tips on where to go in the Vic Alps? I have been to Bright, Omeo and Dartmouth in recent times. I think Dargo has to be on the list of where to go next…

Pork Hunt 8:15 pm 31 Dec 14

@dungfungus, thank you for pointing out all the extra costs of registering ones vehicle that were introduced after the never ever GST. Before any state or federal governments seek to increase the GST, there needs to be a Royal Comission into all the little levies and charges that they impose on us.

rommeldog56 6:36 pm 31 Dec 14

Steven Bailey said :

dungfungus said :

The future for Canberra will be a widening in the gap between rich and poor or more succinctly, those who can fund the rapidly increasing costs of living and the rest of us who can’t.
With rates increasing and services diminishing and no commensurate increase in retirement income, a lot of us will have sell up and move to decaying country towns.
I just received a motor vehicle registration renewal notice for my humble 2 litre sedan last week.
The cost is $966.30 which includes a Road Rescue Fee for $16.60, a Road Safety Contribution for $2.00 and a Lifetime Care and Support Levy for $34.00.
How many renewal notices encompass a fee, contribution and levy on top of everything else?
I suppose there will be a “Tram Rescue Levy” before too long.
To save some money, I recently cancelled my membership to one of the national seniors’ associations who do very little except bash the government for “doing nothing either”.
I was reminded that I wouldn’t get the “senior’s discount for restaurants and motels” anymore.
My reply was “who needs a discount for goods and services one can’t afford anyway?”.
As far as I am aware, the ACT Government hasn’t yet taxed greetings and salutations so “Happy New Year Everybody”.

Yes Dungfungus, I too fear that the future of Canberra will entail a widening gap between the rich and upper-middle class, and the poor. Happy new year to you.

Steven : As a self funded retiree, my CPI linked pension (which is modest – but which i stupidly thought was better that than bludging on the Age Pension and so, on other taxpayers and ACT Ratepayers !), went up 2.1% – well under CPI.

Also, my Annual Rates here went up 9.49% – and will apparently continue to do so at a similar rate pa for the next 18 years or so. I have sbsolutely no hope of being able to afford that – so will have to move away from my family & friends and out of Canberra within a few years. No doubt, i will be joined by many more self funded retiree’s in Canberra who are at the lower – mid end of the self funded pension income scale.

Self funded retirees also get no assistance what so ever from the ACT Gov’t in terms of cost of living concessions (eg. car registration fee, reduction in annual rates, concessional bus travel, etc) that Age Pension/Centrelink recipients get. Those are not means tested.

I know, I know – some on here will say that the up to tripling of the Annual Rates is the “best decision that this ACT Labor Gov’t has made ” – or “you should move into a smaller townhouse/unit”. But that not the point. I already paid full stamp duty on my modest house when I purchased it in Canberra as a self funded retiree 3 years ago. Now, over time, i have to pay it again, and again, and again. It is legalsuied theft.

Tripling of Annual Rates was a decision by the ACT Gov’t – qand as a previous life long Labor voter, one which has lost my vote for Labor in the ACT forever. And my disillusionment with the well healed (and no doubt, far too affluent) Canberra voters/Ratepayers who knowingly voted this in at the last ACT election, is extreme.

So, yes Steven, the gap between lower/middle income earners and those more affulent and/or earning two good wages, will dramatically incrase here in coming years. And done by a Labor Government too.

Steven Bailey 1:58 pm 31 Dec 14

dungfungus said :

The future for Canberra will be a widening in the gap between rich and poor or more succinctly, those who can fund the rapidly increasing costs of living and the rest of us who can’t.
With rates increasing and services diminishing and no commensurate increase in retirement income, a lot of us will have sell up and move to decaying country towns.
I just received a motor vehicle registration renewal notice for my humble 2 litre sedan last week.
The cost is $966.30 which includes a Road Rescue Fee for $16.60, a Road Safety Contribution for $2.00 and a Lifetime Care and Support Levy for $34.00.
How many renewal notices encompass a fee, contribution and levy on top of everything else?
I suppose there will be a “Tram Rescue Levy” before too long.
To save some money, I recently cancelled my membership to one of the national seniors’ associations who do very little except bash the government for “doing nothing either”.
I was reminded that I wouldn’t get the “senior’s discount for restaurants and motels” anymore.
My reply was “who needs a discount for goods and services one can’t afford anyway?”.
As far as I am aware, the ACT Government hasn’t yet taxed greetings and salutations so “Happy New Year Everybody”.

Yes Dungfungus, I too fear that the future of Canberra will entail a widening gap between the rich and upper-middle class, and the poor. Happy new year to you.

Steven Bailey 1:57 pm 31 Dec 14

ghutch said :

Yep I agree largely, especially the multicultural festival. It is a crowded 2 day event with the same cheap food you can get at the show etc. Why is it held in mid Feb usually the hottest period of the year?
Canberra is still great for walking, jogging, cycling, kayaking etc and if you do these things in the early mornings it can be very rewarding and even healthy. W also have great nature reserves and views from surrounding hills

Agreed. Happy new year to you.

Steven Bailey 1:52 pm 31 Dec 14

Masquara said :

Well, Parisians all leave Paris throughout July for the south. Does that mean they “don’t love Paris enough”?

A most salient point Masquara. May your next year be full of adroit commentary and intelligent insights.

fps_grandma 1:06 am 31 Dec 14

Canberra has an image of being a transient town that tends to attract interstate Australians for career prospects so some of those same people will jump at the opportunity of using the Christmas and New Years holiday to go to the coast or visit family and friends interstate as examples.
In regards to those same people no amount of entertainment or events can stop that.
This happens in other cities but it is much more noticiable in Canberra due to its five-figure population compared to other cities across Australia.
Author, I’ll give you credit fitting the description of being a true Canberran by staying behind in Canberra and going to Summernats over the Christmas and New Years break.
A significant proportion of “Australians” do not care about or even despise Summernats and those noisy old Monaros, Kingswoods, Falcon GTs, etc. whether they are Canberrans or not.
If you want Canberra to be less boring here’s a tip:
Establish more nightclubs for the younger crowd after the closure of Meche and ICBM.
They’re the missing pieces to a complete and compact city.
There’s enough outdoor recreation, overpriced restaurants, family, family and more family oriented activities already.

Weatherman 6:59 pm 30 Dec 14

Families in Canberra like to visit Batemans Bay often because it is the town nearest the ocean shores and surf beaches with family resorts and hotels. There is a joke that Batemans Bay should be renamed to East Canberra. The traffic from Canberra to the coast during the holiday period is congested though. Meanwhile, other people from interstate tour Canberra for holiday. It is a time when it is possible to meet other Australians and tourists visiting Canberra because events, such as Summernats, Multicultural Festival, Australia Day activities etc. attract tourists.

bronal 4:03 pm 30 Dec 14

Your post is so pensive I find it hard to make out what it’s about! Most people who who leave Canberra at this time of year do so because (a) it’s in the middle of the summer school holidays and they’re going away with their kids or (b) they’re taking holidays themselves to go and see family or friends. I don’t take that to mean they dislike Canberra or find it in any way culturally inadequate.

I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but the rest of Australia seems to close down artistically as well.

Masquara 2:49 pm 30 Dec 14

Well, Parisians all leave Paris throughout July for the south. Does that mean they “don’t love Paris enough”?

ghutch 1:26 pm 30 Dec 14

Yep I agree largely, especially the multicultural festival. It is a crowded 2 day event with the same cheap food you can get at the show etc. Why is it held in mid Feb usually the hottest period of the year?
Canberra is still great for walking, jogging, cycling, kayaking etc and if you do these things in the early mornings it can be very rewarding and even healthy. W also have great nature reserves and views from surrounding hills

dungfungus 10:15 am 30 Dec 14

The future for Canberra will be a widening in the gap between rich and poor or more succinctly, those who can fund the rapidly increasing costs of living and the rest of us who can’t.
With rates increasing and services diminishing and no commensurate increase in retirement income, a lot of us will have sell up and move to decaying country towns.
I just received a motor vehicle registration renewal notice for my humble 2 litre sedan last week.
The cost is $966.30 which includes a Road Rescue Fee for $16.60, a Road Safety Contribution for $2.00 and a Lifetime Care and Support Levy for $34.00.
How many renewal notices encompass a fee, contribution and levy on top of everything else?
I suppose there will be a “Tram Rescue Levy” before too long.
To save some money, I recently cancelled my membership to one of the national seniors’ associations who do very little except bash the government for “doing nothing either”.
I was reminded that I wouldn’t get the “senior’s discount for restaurants and motels” anymore.
My reply was “who needs a discount for goods and services one can’t afford anyway?”.
As far as I am aware, the ACT Government hasn’t yet taxed greetings and salutations so “Happy New Year Everybody”.

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