Sunday, December 30, 2012

A little good news for Welshers keen to start the new year with a gloat or three ...

(Above:  the header kind of says it all because Victoria the place is in turmoil).

 The good news from Victoria is that Victoria is a quivering mess, a jelly of a state ...

That's from the perspective of a New South Welsh person, tired of perennial boasting and inflated self-esteem of a kind frequently associated with a short person trying to compensate for a lack of height. A more kindly, empathetic and compassionate approach might be to wonder how the mighty V got itself into such a mess.

As noted before on these pages, it was the state of the roads that announced to the pond that Victoria had retreated to third world ways, or perhaps to the outlook and maintenance habits of a bankrupt American state like California.

They now have permanent signs advising motorists to be wary of "rough surfaces", an understated way of saying we can't be buggered fixing this, but here's a sign to read.

 And the pond got caught up in a gigantic Carmageddon, a traffic jam which developed because a few lanes on the West Gate Bridge and which eventually stretched back to Malvern and beyond - critics were left to argue fiercely whether it was a 20 or a 28 km traffic jam.

The pond luckily escaped the bulk of the Carmageddon by getting off at Toorak, only to be engulfed by a mini-Carmageddon which proved others had also used the same exit to escape … (the story is here, with forced video attached).

Meanwhile, the public transport system is a mess. The pond was in town the very moment that the old Metcard system was abandoned and Myki forced on a reluctant citizenry. It is now no longer possible to buy a ticket on a tram, the first time since trams were introduced way back when in the late nineteenth century.

(screen cap only, no hot links)

Tourists, country folk and interstate visitors are now obliged to support the cost of installing this system, which is a perfect example of the way governments, bureaucrats and systems govern, organise and implement for benefit of themselves, and not their customers, and certainly not for wayward eccentricities and exceptions like casual users, or tourists who just want to get around for a few days. 

How many times in the years ahead can we look forward to delightful tales of security staff roughing up Myki-less folk? (as you can read here, with the above forced video attached).

Soon enough there will be tall tales of how you might go to New York or Tokyo and find an easy to use train system - yes, even Japanese symbols are more elegant and easier to follow than an attempt to purchase a Myki card.

And meanwhile the press is full of stories of how trains don't run on time, signs on boards give false clues as to destination, and how a brave soul might set off hoping to reach one suburb, only to land in another …

And for this bliss, you pay extra, not just in cash but in time and convenience, because your main point is to help the government and the bureaucrats and the system, such as it is.

One of the problems the state faces is the way Melbourne is turning into a gigantic, sprawling megalopolis of monstrous McMansions. In the pond's day, Berwick was reckoned to be an outer suburb for retirees.

These days it's regarded as a kind of inner city commute, while a country town like Drouin is regarded as the coming thing, with developers rampant and estates on the march. The wretched place is some 40ks beyond Pakenham and Nar Nar Goon (yes, you can imagine the despair of Nar Nar Goon), too far out for the pond to even think of checking out.

But then the same thing is happening to the north and to the west, and naturally there's not enough in the budget to provide transport, or facilities or infrastructure, nor even the kind of geographic limit to the folly provided by the Sydney basin.

As a result, the car remains king, and Carmageddon its inevitable consequence. There's talk of a second crossing to ease pressure on the West Gate bridge, just as there's idle natter about the urgent need for a fast train connection to the airport (and we all know why that hasn't happened - the short explanation is VI, which is vested interests to you, and let's not get started on taxi reform).

Now not all this is the fault of the Baillieu government, but it's generally recognised that this lazy government isn't helping. All it knows how to do, in a reflexive way, is to cut budgets and fight with unions, which beats the hell out of doing anything coherent, constructive and positive.

It's also true that Victoria started down this path a long time ago. The rule of the car can be traced to that pontificating, self-aggrandising blowhard Jeff Kennett, who can still be found around the traps blathering on about anything that will keep him in the media spotlight.

But it's also a reminder that in a state government, the least useful things are ideology and theology of the Baillieu kind, especially if they can be replaced by managerial skills and the vision thing. What Baiallieu's team offers is the delusion that privatisation will fix everything, including schools and hospitals, as opposed to an even easier way for the private sector to fort government and punters.

A good example of the deliberate lack of vision is the antipathy to wind energy, based on a few hysterical cranks who seem to think it's the cause of illness, when the best you can say is that windmills mostly seem to introduce a kind of mass delusion.

As it now is, Victoria is on the move, but it doesn't have a clue where it's going. Myer is trying to turn itself into an emporium, as if that will hold back the internet tide, while poor old Dimmeys of Richmond is now about to be turned into a set of "heritage" apartments. "Heritage" is squatting in a room over a store which once sold cheap clothes to working class families? Only in Victoria … (with the staff farewelling the building by trashing it at an unofficial Xmas party).

And in the y'arts it doesn't sound much better. The Age's theatre critic lamented that it had been the worst year ever for the Melbourne Theatre company, and the infamous black clad Northcote trendies seem in disarray.

Perhaps the best indication of how dire the Victorian straits are is that the pond even heard talk of the AFL organising an international test match against New Zealand. It seems the ersatz silliness of the occasional round ball game with the Irish in an "international" test match based on Rafferty's rules has been recognised as the eccentricity it is, and the dream of conquering the United States has finally slid into the too hard basket.

But  the lack of international recognition clutches at the stomach, and so there's talk of the nascent game in New Zealand getting its shit together and providing an international joust … yep, rugby union obsessed Kiwis are where Victorians turn for hope in these gloomy days.

Meanwhile the cricket finished early, which was good, but also bad, because the Boxing day ritual was ruined, and now Sydney is talking of stealing the cricket. The fiends ...

Never mind that on New Year's Eve Melburnians now shamelessly drop a bucket load of moola on fireworks in an attempt to compete with Sydney, even if the town lacks the natural environment (bridge and harbour) to mount an aesthetically pleasing display.

They could stay at home and watch the telecast of Sydney's event, and turn the cash to good works in the community, but such is the competitive spirit in the dismal city, that now they want to emulate the mindlessness of the vacuous emerald city. Oh the sweet irony …

(no hot links, just dreams of deluded Victorians)

For long suffering easy going New South Welsh people, accustomed to sneers and jibes, it's joyously easy pickings.

And after that's done we could leave the Vics in hapless disarray, and turn on the natural enemy … Queenslanders.

But then that target turns into an equally tragic vision, as Campbell Newman and his posse of clowns run the state into the ground.

And before hubris gets to first staters, then it's time to remember that the state is being run by Bazza O'Farrell, who's as short on the vision thing as Newman and Baillieu, and who might just propose that Sydney's second airport be based outside Brisbane … or perhaps at Avalon in Victoria, once they organise a fast train to the aerodrome.

While Bazza's dreams of bands of shooters roaming the parks in Mad Max style and B-triples tearing up the Hume Highway comes to pass.

Yes, in the parochial world of state politics, the entire east coast seems to be sliding into the Pacific, at a time when management skills and the vision thing are what's most needed. (That and an ability to resist developers developing willynilly without regard for a coherent, functioning community …)

Not that Labor governments of the past have been any better. The credit for Myki - or more to the point the shame - can be shared around, and there's every odds that the system introduced into New South Wales, after a gestation period longer than an elephant, will be just as much in the grip of the needs of government and bureaucrat, and to hell with actual customers (or clients or plebs or however you like to call the unwashed masses and pond dwellers).

This is just a superficial survey - who's got time to go into the state of roads in the Geelong area if you never travel to Geelong - but it's all good news for Welshers in search of a gloat or two if they meet their southern cousins over the break ...

Talk to them about the state of the state, and there'll be downcast eyes and furtive looks and such a whimpering and a sighing that you'll feel good for a week, or even more ...

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