Thursday, April 30, 2009

Melbourne not so marvellous?

Melbourne doesn't have a stunning natural feature like Sydney Harbour, nor do we have an iconic landmark like the Sydney Opera House. What we do have are quiet, leafy, uncrowded suburbs, the best of which have attractive historic architecture, extensive parks and fine public buildings. Melbourne has been ranked twice as the world's most liveable city.

But for how long? A population boom fuelled by mass migration is likely to send Melbourne falling down the list of liveable cities.

Here is the kind of thing we get to read now in our newspapers:

Bulldoze the 'burbs

Melbourne must destroy the bulk of its leafy eastern suburbs in order to thrive, a leading planning expert says.

Target suburbs include Brighton, Camberwell, Balwyn, Ormond and Preston.

Mr Black says spacious suburban blocks should be levelled and the homes replaced with three to six storey apartment buildings.

This is not a call to demolish slum housing to improve the urban environment. It's the reverse: Jason Black, state president of the Planning Institute of Australia, is calling here for the demolition of the very best suburbs to make way for crowded, high-rise urban living.

It brings to mind a poem I wrote some years ago in which a Melbourne boy of the future tries to make the best of things in his bed time prayer:

As I lay me down I pray
in thanks to those who took away
our house at No 22
its seven rooms and backyard too.

For now I live at 20/39
up here the weather's always fine
for grey clouds pass us far below
and if they rise then we get snow!

And yes I miss my dog it's true
and Dad pines for his BBQ
and Mum preferred the flowers and trees
the singing birds, the humming bees

But who were we to block the way
of progress, for politicians say
that it is best, it must be so
to live like those in Tokyo

Now I must go, it must be late
for next door at 20/38
the telly's off, it is so still
I hear the eagles at the window sill

But I give thanks I live so high
to wave as QANTAS passes by.


  1. This was the poem that came to my mind:

    The Plantster’s Vision
    John Betjeman

    Cut down that timber! Bells, too many and strong,
    Pouring their music through the branches bare,
    From moon-white church towers down the windy air
    Have pealed the centuries out with Evensong.

    Remove those cottages, a huddled throng!
    Too many babies have been born in there,
    Too many coffins, bumping down the stair,
    Carried the old their garden paths along.

    I have a Vision of the Future, chum,
    The workers’ flats in fields of soya beans
    Tower up like silver pencils, score on score:
    And Surging Millions hear the Challenge come
    From microphones in communal canteens
    “No Right! No Wrong! All’s perfect, evermore!”

  2. *Gasp*

    You know Betjeman was a supporter of gay rights and probably had a homosexual affair?

  3. *Gasp*

    Did you know that Betjeman's alleged sexual behaviour is irrelevant to the poem and the issue at hand?

    The issue at hand is the desire of Planners to destroy organic communities to suit their own plans.

    This is rather like the Homosexualist who has no regards for the Truth - and thus narcissistically brings up his perverse desires at every opportunity - and then exaggerates and distorts the life of historical figures (as well as science, sociology, anthropology etc.) to anachronistically legitimise their twisted ideology.

    So now a married man with a mistress becomes a supporter of "gay rights" does he? When did he support them? What supposed "rights" were they?

  4. MCB, that poem is brilliant. Never heard of the poet and must look him up.

    And good gosh he was pro rump ranging, what a shock.

    I say let's destroy every Darlinghurst Terrace and every Surrey Hills Squat mowed down. Take the turd burglers out on to the street and let them camp at Auburn and turn some rent.

    No doubt the boys from the Lebanon out back of Lidcombe way would take in a few gay airs and accommodate an evening cabaret down by the Mosque. They'd be passing out Baklawa, Basma and condoms to celebrate the cheek by jowl pleasures of Western hedonism rebadged as Oz Gay Pride.

  5. What we do have are quiet, leafy, uncrowded suburbs, the best of which have attractive historic architecture, extensive parks and fine public buildings.Makes for a fine target, that does. Cry Havoc! I say, and let slip the Hellhounds of Liberalism! Such things must not stand.

  6. I apologize, my formatting has been careless of late.

  7. Mr Hannagan,

    Sir John Betjeman had an appreciation for the English countryside and a dislike of modern architecture (and modern industrial society). So you may appreciate another poem from him this time about the town of Slough, which had become heavily industrialized and crowded.

    SloughCome friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
    It isn't fit for humans now,
    There isn't grass to graze a cow.
    Swarm over, Death!

    Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
    Those air -conditioned, bright canteens,
    Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,
    Tinned minds, tinned breath.

    Mess up the mess they call a town-
    A house for ninety-seven down
    And once a week a half a crown
    For twenty years.

    And get that man with double chin
    Who'll always cheat and always win,
    Who washes his repulsive skin
    In women's tears:

    And smash his desk of polished oak
    And smash his hands so used to stroke
    And stop his boring dirty joke
    And make him yell.

    But spare the bald young clerks who add
    The profits of the stinking cad;
    It's not their fault that they are mad,
    They've tasted Hell.

    It's not their fault they do not know
    The birdsong from the radio,
    It's not their fault they often go
    To Maidenhead

    And talk of sport and makes of cars
    In various bogus-Tudor bars
    And daren't look up and see the stars
    But belch instead.

    In labour-saving homes, with care
    Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
    And dry it in synthetic air
    And paint their nails.

    Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough
    To get it ready for the plough.
    The cabbages are coming now;
    The earth exhales.

  8. And daren't look up and see the stars
    But belch instead.
    What a find. Thanks MCB, I'm already looking for an online collection of his work.

    My only reference for Slough is that it was the town where David Brent presided as the manager in "The Office". Very appropriate setting it would seem.


  9. Oh dear's like Santa Monica!!!

    Santa Monica is such a shithole cuz they did exactly that.

    Shithole Shithole Shithole

    What's this guys email address?

    Oh so my dad was walking along Santa Monica and ran into an Australian and the Australian was so disgusted at the crowdedness and homeless all dad was thoroughly embarassed and agreed with the guy completely

    Mexican immigration my friends

    You guys need to put back the White Immigration Only Policy and put it back fast...and limit even that number

  10. My first thought was Agenda 21. Can't have people living on their own private property, now, can we?

  11. I think you may be wrong here, and maybe (probably) the quote from the Herald Sun is inflammatory and misleading. The same councils and planning committees that will oppose this sort of thing will happily interfere in the lives of all council voters if they cut down a tree in their own yard, if they want to make slight changes to their house, etc. They may not even oppose development, just development that benefits them, or the interest groups that have their ear.

    Often it's progressives and left-wingers who will try to falsely conserve the character of an area or a region, through a misguided idea that you can engineer a culture, and the lives of everyone living in. Alternatively, they will try to bring change about, but engineer the changes that happen themselves. (Witness the appalling results of private-public partnerships in the current public transport system).

    Finally, there are a lot of poets who quite rightly memorialise the past and the vanishing of cultures and social structures due to change. Then again, there are also poets who have quite a different, and much more positive, view of change and technology. I offer you one of the most talented poets of the 20th century, a chap who wanted to be a railway engineer when he grew up - W H Auden:

    This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
    Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
    Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
    The shop at the corner and the girl next door.
    Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
    The gradient's against her, but she's on time.
    Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
    Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
    Snorting noisily as she passes
    Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.

  12. This was poorly worded:

    They may not even oppose development, just development that benefits them, or the interest groups that have their ear. I meant:

    They may not even oppose all development, just all development that does not benefit them directly, or the interest groups that have their ear. Word verification: exprod. Is that another way of describing a Catholic convert from a protestant background?