Seven Days / Groundhog terror, trams and Mr Fluffy

“The southern suburbs gave the tram an unequivocal raspberry and even the pampered princes from the golden streets of Gungahlin aren’t entirely on board,” writes Seven Days columnist IAN MEIKLE

THE optimism of sunny spring was burst as we were dragged back into a week of Groundhog Day news themes from gloomy winter: terror, trams and Mr Fluffy.

Ian Meikle.

Ian Meikle.

THE shooting spree of the lone-wolf terrorist in Ottawa sent a steely shiver down the fortress that was once our user-friendly Parliament House as the security obsessives went further into overdrive.

The days of children rolling down the grassy banks and common folk innocently snapping photos of the rooftop views seem like a dream when it feels we are but a heartbeat short of hearing that they’re going to build a moat out of State Circuit.

ALMOST on the eve of our finally getting to see the business plan for the divisive light rail project, the “Canberra Times” to its credit did what the blinkered, tramcentric local government won’t and invited anyone who wanted to say if they’re up for light rail or would prefer other transformative ideas such as spending the squillions on health and education.

Remarkably, a statistically strong sample of more than 6000 people responded. Unremarkably, most sensible people would prefer better education and health, which makes the revelation that crowded Canberra Hospital is almost overwhelmed with patients all the more pertinent.

Needless to say, the southern suburbs gave the tram an unequivocal raspberry and even the pampered princes from the golden streets of Gungahlin aren’t entirely on board with an ungrateful number of only 52 per cent wanting the tram.

Unconvinced, the Chief Minister Katy Gallagher largely waved the results away as being “self-selective” saying: “I accept that the project needs a lot more explaining”. Not to the Liberal leader Jeremy Hanson who has vowed to explain why not all the way to the 2016 election.

THE federal government has finally decided to help the ACT with a loan to flatten the asbestos-affected Mr Fluffy houses, but not before the redoubtable Brianna Heseltine, who tirelessly leads the affected residents’ group, threw an FOI grenade into the argument.

She unearthed papers that show the Commonwealth received expert medical advice more than 25 years ago warning Canberra’s death rate to mesothelioma would almost certainly rise if people lived with Mr Fluffy insulation. Commonwealth money isn’t a minute too soon.

THE cops were pretty pleased with themselves for nabbing 28 kilograms of methamphetamine from a car in Curtin. They say the haul’s $26 million value justified the bad look of two aggressively armed policemen standing there during the media conference.

TAMS Minister Shane Rattenbury says “people have all sorts of animals these days” including rats and he wants to know if passengers should take them or other pets on the buses.

He says it will help improve access to public transport for “pet owners who have no other means of transporting their animal to, say, the vet.

Seven Days presumes passengers with allergies or asthma triggered by the presence of furry fellow travellers will be transported to their doctor.

CITYNEWS.COM.AU online editor John Griffiths nagged the Chief Minister’s office enough to get a look at the elusive “Memorandum of Friendship Exchange and Economic Cooperation between the City of Shenzhen of the People’s Republic of China and the City of Canberra, the Australian Capital Territory of Australia” that Katy dashed to the industrial city of 15 million to sign.

Griffiths notes: “At two pages it’s on the skinny side and mostly just commits us to exchanges and the promotion of those exchanges.

“It looks like Canberra will be getting an ‘International Relationships Office’ which sounds like nice work if you can get it.”


Regular columnist Robert Macklin is on leave. Ian Meikle is editor of “CityNews”.

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