IT is annoying to constantly experience the culture within this ACT government that delivers a daily onslaught of spin. Who writes this stuff? Don’t they realise how hollow they sound? What do they think this nonsense achieves?
Community councils do the right thing in allowing bureaucrats and politicians a forum to address residents. Too often these opportunities for real conversations are squandered by the use of bureaucratic gobbledygook.
A public meeting on February 12, hosted by the well-led Inner South Canberra Community Council (ISCCC), provided a panel of speakers on the topic of transport and could have been a very positive experience. Not so much this time. Not because of the ISCCC, but because of the bureaucratic language.
As with many of these meetings, once the speeches are over, people recover (wake up) and raise relevant issues and ask questions on their topics.
There were several hot questions on the night. A Narrabundah resident, backed by several other voices, raised a matter fundamental to their daily lives as retirees.
It was explained that despite all the official rhetoric about the new bus services providing a better service, the opposite was true for many residents in Narrabundah. They were the losers. As elsewhere in Canberra, some residents have become collateral damage for the greater good and the view was that minister and her transport bureaucrats were not listening.
What followed in response was well-rehearsed doublespeak that said nothing new. The residents were not happy and probably wondered why they bothered to speak up as they are not treated seriously.
I was amused by how another issue evolved. I say this while totally agreeing with the seriousness of the matter.
A resident took the only microphone and spoke of the constant danger to walkers who share paths with bicycle riders who think they are on the Tour de France. The event organiser took the microphone but before she returned it to the front, she spoke about her own harrowing experience of being slammed by a cyclist when she stepped on to the footpath from a shop.
There was more. As she finished, the ISCCC chair took the microphone and spoke of the repeated experiences she and her friends encounter when trying to do their routine walks. There was applause from the audience.
Then followed more of the well-rehearsed doublespeak that said little.
Later in the meeting another resident picked up on the tone of the responses to the clash of cycles and pedestrians. While he agreed that it was definitely down to a minority of cyclists, that did not take away from the dangers of these shared paths and that the responses so far were glib and not helpful. What followed was even more doublespeak that said nothing helpful.
At the end of the presentations the chair of the Tuggeranong association introduced another hot issue. She reported as objectively as possible on the curse of the commercial drones on trial in a Tuggeranong suburb.
Despite any reporting in the media that has provided the usual “balance” to this high-tech solution for people wanting their coffee and pizzas delivered, many residents in Tuggeranong are very unhappy about the so-called high-tech heavenly invasion into their lives.
The meeting heard that this technical annoyance is about to appear in the airspace over Gungahlin backyards. It sounded like another “future proofing” bright idea from the chief minister – something that we mortals apparently have to share in. It is going to take concerted opposition to see this questionable idea come down to earth.
The frustration for residents is that these issues, that have relevance across Canberra, are being raised time and time again. Unfortunately, the political and bureaucratic responses continue to be meaningless, disrespectful and mostly rubbish. People wonder what happened to city planning that is inclusive, intelligent and open minded – and is about neighbourhood character, trees, people, the environment and being humane.
Paul Costigan is an independent commentator and consultant on the visual arts, photography, urban design, environmental issues and everyday matters.