THE Age, The Canberra Times’ sister newspaper, has published an article claiming that Australians have forgotten Canberra’s 100th birthday because of its “weird remoteness” and “political bastardry.”
The article, titled “Happy Birthday, to a vision turned sterile”, is by regular Fairfax columnist Martin McKenzie-Murray, a former Labor Party speechwriter and ex-Canberran.
“Canberra turns 100 this year, but awkwardly it seems Australians have forgotten its birthday,” McKenzie-Murray writes.
“The Bush Capital must now be cursing its weird remoteness, and the fact that outside its borders ‘Canberra’ is not the name of a city, but shorthand for political bastardry.”
The milestone anniversary “has not softened criticism of Canberra,” McKenzie Murray argues.
“Running parallel to the cheerful parochialism of those organising centenary events are some very different and unflattering stories,” he writes.
“On the day I moved to Canberra I was taken to the top of Mount Ainslie. From there you can view The Plan – the sight lines, the Parliamentary Triangle, the geometric symmetry. From there you could also see the empty boulevards and feel the crisp air. That cool wind didn’t just come from the Brindabella Ranges. There was a chilling vibe. Here was the ”unreality” of Canberra that Keating had described.”
McKenzie-Murray describes Walter Burley Griffin’s design for Canberra as “prophetic and pathetic.”
“Instead of a tightly knit centre, six (now seven) small districts emerged, separated by vast space and ill-connected by public transport. Between these centres lies mandated green space, which is pretty for tourists but pushes locals apart, limits land availability and drives up property prices.”
He concludes by admitting there “is diversity in Canberra…but it’s maddeningly, inorganically muted by the concentration of bureaucrats ironically shepherded to a place far removed from the Australians they’re meant to serve.”