Our poor relations

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IT’S not easy for Canberrans being surrounded by NSW. It’s a bit like a nice, well-educated family displaced by some climate-change disaster, waking up to find itself surrounded by the poor relations… except in our case there’s no prospect of reprieve, ever. 

We’re stuck here. And getting out – even to visit our beach house or friends on the outside – is a real ordeal. This really struck home last weekend when we headed out to Sydney on the worst rail line in Australia.

It’s so bad that a journey that takes a bit over three hours by car requires a full four and a half by train. That is outrageous. The driver is never able to travel at full speed; he stops at the most ridiculous places – Tarago, for instance, where no one has boarded or alighted since 1963 – and when he does put the foot down the carriage springs go berserk.

Honestly, they sound like the screaming of a sow giving birth to a litter of giant piglets. And when you complain – which I did – the conductor says: ‘We report that every day, sir.” I mean, how hard is it to buy a can of WD40 and squirt the under-carriage?

Or take the road to the coast – the Kings Highway. How long has it been since you made that journey without being pulled up at least three times by some bloke with a stop/slow sign while NSW council workers make piddling little repairs and add yet another overtaking lane?

When will it end?


Yet this unease of access doesn’t stop them – the NSW denizens – from coming in their hundreds to use our facilities – hospitals, schools, etcetera – at bargain-basement prices.

Our problem could hardly be better illustrated than by two recent events – the ICAC hearings into corruption in the NSW Labor Government; and a truly outrageous decision by its Liberal successor.

It seems that for the last 10 years at least, the Labor right wingers have been engaged in a massive plundering of the State’s finances. I wish I could say this comes as a surprise, but really it’s just NSW doing what it’s always done. Governor Bligh had the right idea when he took a stand against John Macarthur and his Rum Corps, and look what happened to him.

However, I do admit to a frisson of wonderment at the decision by Liberal Premier Barry O’Farrell to give the green light to a housing development on the Canberra airport flight path. This is the same Barry O’Farrell who wants Canberra to be Sydney’s second airport. It was so patently bonkers that even (New South Welshman) Joe Hockey was taken aback and that’s really saying something.

I wish I could think of a solution to our dilemma. Perhaps as we approach our centenary we could formulate a plan to join up with our Jervis Bay enclave. That at least would give us independent access to the civilised world without having to pass through the NSW netherland.

Meantime, spare a thought for poor Katy Gallagher and her ministers having to deal with their State equivalents – for them, it seems, it’s either cupidity or stupidity, take your pick.


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Robert Macklin
Journalist and author. Contact robert@robertmacklin.com

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