Cloth-eared Chris finally hears the bus anger

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Buses come back, planes get the shakes, strange pavement protrusions and petrol price puffery… it’s another ‘Seven Days’ with IAN MEIKLE.

PEOPLE power has prevailed. Transport Minister Chris Steel and his obstinate bureaucracy have yielded to months of complaint and announced an increase in weekday, weekend and school bus services. 

Ian Meikle.

Laughingly describing it as listening to “issues raised” by commuters, the hitherto cloth-eared Chris announced nine changes to the maligned bus network including increased weekend services on Saturdays and better connections during weekdays. Nothing changes until late April, but it’s amazing how effective people power is in an election year. 

Opposition transport spokesperson Candice Burch didn’t miss a beat in accusing the minister of simply fixing problems that the ACT government created in the first place.

“The minister cannot even bring himself to apologise to Canberrans about the chaos and disrespect he has been responsible for,” she sniffed.

THE fire is now being controlled, but one imagines ESA commissioner Georgeina Whelan was seeing red when Parkes Way was unhappily drenched with 2500 litres of fire retardant from one of her planes; possibly the former brigadier’s only blemish in a faultless summer of fighting the elements. 

The ESA’s attempt to paint the town red… misplaced fire retardant on Rond Terrace. Photo: ESA

The aircraft, working on the Orroral Valley Fire, apparently hit by turbulence dumped its (they say) harmless load on the car park at Rond Terrace and Anzac Parade at Rond Pond.

To the ESA’s credit, they fessed up and even sent a mea-culpa snap of the pinked terrace steps. In fact, the agency has been exemplary in keeping the community apprised of disasters (smoke, fire, hail, leaking planes) all summer long.

The numbers tell the story: over the four Januarys, starting at 2016, the ESA’s public news and alert tally was 47, 54, 27 and 44. This year it hit 243! 

I KNOW there’s a word for it, but Graham Catt seems to have been handed a special kind of sandwich when Canberra Business Chamber CEO Michael Schaper set off for six months of enlightenment from a course in Singapore. 

In a message to members the acting top Catt says local businesses battling the effects of fires, smoke and hail want to rebuild and recover. But he hears that tourism and hospitality operators are shouldering losses (some more than $500,000) with the downturn in visitor numbers to Canberra hotels and attractions as high as 50 per cent.

“With the fire season still with us, we now also need to consider the implications of the Novel Coronavirus, particularly in the education, tourism and hospitality sectors…” We will all pay for this. 

In the weed-riddled wastes of Mitchell, along the Lysaght Street boulevard, is this odd impediment rising perpendicular to the pavement. As one perambulates, maybe distracted by the wizardry of one’s smart phone, one could easily stumble into this, fall to the ground, be taken to hospital, endure surgery, weeks of recuperation, heaven knows! All the while one’s lawyers, seeking public-liability redress, can chase the perpetrators who have thoughtfully pasted their name and phone number atop. Evo Energy, if one were wondering.

“SEVEN Days” loves irony. The Chief Minister pops out a limp press release promising that “Canberrans are set to benefit from the ACT government’s push for more competition in the local petrol market.”

What’s he done? Nothing much beyond writing to petrol retailers in NSW imploring them to come and screw his own rate-paying, family owned servos and writing to the NSW government to let the ACT piggyback its digital price watch to let “Canberrans decide where to buy petrol and keep retailers honest”. What, the locals are dishonest as well as expensive? 

Anyway, enough soap box, the irony is that in that press release a concerned Andrew Barr says he’s encouraging new operators in “to help drive petrol prices down and ease cost of living pressure on Canberra households”

And in this very edition Gary Petherbridge, president of the Owners Corporation Network ACT, says rates this year will rise 8 per cent and 11 per cent for units. 

A compassionate leader concerned about the cost-of-living increases would worry less about spinning the small-change petrol savings and really help community battlers by moderating the rate increases. It is election year. 

SCHOOL’S back and of interest to taxpayers comes the news from Education Minister Yvette Berry that for the third year the government is providing years 7-12 with what she calls a “free” Chromebook (laptop-style computer). To date, we’ve provided 20,000 of the “free” devices. 


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Ian Meikle
Ian Meikle is the owner and editor of "CityNews".

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