Thursday, 31 January 2008

Adelaide dreaming

Yesterday, when interviewed about the upcoming dredging of Port Phillip Bay, Premier Brumby said that if Melbourne doesn’t want to become a “backwater” like Adelaide the dredging project should be allowed to start. Well, I haven’t been to Adelaide yet, but I’m not sure Adelaide's people would want to go as low as Melbourne is on the worst run city scale.
Look at the dredging project itself, for a start. Project stakeholders have been telling us, as in the case of the ABC’s 7:30 Report last night, that the project is financially viable because an investment of 1 billion dollars today would return 2 billion dollars within 30 years. The thing is, they are able to say this while keeping a straight face, and they manage to get the news reporters to repeat their mantra as well, thus making me ask myself whether I am the only person around that can do basic calculations? Fact is, and it is very much a fact, that spending 1 billion in order to get 2 billions in 30 years time is an incredibly poor investment [assuming they are not using some sophisticated normalized figures, which all indications show they don’t; they're using the same figures they published years ago, back when the cost of the project was supposed to be a few hundreds of millions of dollars]. We would all be very significantly richer if we put our 1 billion in a secured bank account for 30 years: at a conservative interest rate of 6% we would cash out 5.5 billions instead.
Let’s not ignore another well known fact, which is to do with government projects never running on time or on budget. They’re already complaining the legal battles currently taking place are halting the dredging facilities down and costing a quarter of a million per day, but instead of blaming whoever it was that ordered the dredging facilities in before acquiring the approval to go ahead they blame the citizens that care enough about the environment they live in.
We, the public, are being taken for fools here by the same people we have elected. The fact that it’s the ex-treasurer of Victoria that tells me with a straight face the project is financially viable signals to me the man belongs somewhere else. A land far, far away (the further the better).
Almost needless to say, the state opposition is incredibly quiet about this whole affair. Why? Because they’re just as bad as the state coalition, if not worse. They would have liked the dredging to start years ago so their high powered mates can make their killing.
Lucky us, Victorians, living in a democratic state with no one worthwhile to elect! We should wish we were in Adelaide.

What can we expect, though, from the same people who have been managing Melbourne’s public transport for the last eight years?
Yesterday, while escorting Dylan in his pram to the train, I encountered a faulty elevator at the platform. By the time I realized it was faulty we missed the train and I had to do a whole tour of the train station to get to my platform in time for the next train. Lucky for me I’m not disabled; I don’t want to imagine how life feels like for them.
This morning our train got stuck on a certain station for more than five minutes without any explanation. After a while of passengers looking at one another in search of some information as to why we are all waiting, the station’s announcer (but not the train announcer) said that the next train to leave for the city would leave from platform 5 in a minute. We were on platform 1, which meant an exodus of some thousand people from our train towards the promised land’s platform.
I lagged behind because I saw a train next to us being so full a woman could get pregnant without ever knowing who the father was. Lucky for me, just as I did leave the train it made sounds of moving again, so I jumped right in.
Indeed, within a few minutes of travelling on a ghost train I was at the city's station. Upon arrival there the driver apologized: “sorry for the inconvenience which was a result of a passenger falling ill”. Fair enough, when you have a group of a thousand people crammed together, you are likely to encounter cases of people falling ill. However, why did they leave us all in the dark there? Way is it so hard to tell us people what is going on, so we will not have to contend with uncertainty and get ourselves involuntarily impregnated?
At the city I decided to take a tram to work. Usually I walk, but I’m still weak from my cold and it was raining (a rare event in contemporary Melbourne). Lucky for me, someone up there has decided that in order to help the trams run faster they need to reduce the number of stations; the implication is that now I still have to climb the hill that is on my way to work even if I get a tram, and I am still very much exposed to the rain even when I take a tram. What is the point, then, of taking a tram in the first place?
I remember the trams very favorably from the time after I had my operation and every step I took was hurting. It meant that I didn’t have to walk 20 minutes each way to work, which in turn meant that I could go to work in the first place. If I was to have my operation now, though, I would still be in dire straits (or rather at home on extended leave).
What is the point, then, of the tram service? Aren’t the trams there in order to help those that cannot move about, or are they there to serve as a nice background to those that can take care of themselves? I dread the day in which some bright mind in our state government would realize that all the trams would always be on time if all stops are cancelled.
On the way back home tonight Connex just settled for a simple train cancellation to spice my evening up with.

Let's face it: we are still stuck with a state government whose sole aim is to help big companies make a killing, probably in the hope they would employ the government junta after they retire. The last thing on the government’s mind is to run a state that does what it needs to do for its people and that aims to serve its people. That would probably qualify as an illegal act in their books; after all, no financial benefits would land in their pockets if they were simply to do a good job for the people.
Did you read this, Adelaide? Take good care not to become another Melbourne.

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