A Triumph of Leadership
Russell Degnan

The Scene: A large field on the edge of a city. To the left, a large castle made of sand; the walls manned by the incumbent government. To the right, a trench filled with members of the Labor CAUCUS. In the background RESIDENTS water their lawns in well kept single storey suburban houses.

A man, LATHAM, approaches the castle from the trench, a banner in hand. He has a crazed glint in the eye, and looks eager for the coming battle. The remaining members of the caucus approach warily behind him.

As LATHAM nears the castle he attempts to pull a grenade from his belt. Fumbles it. Drops it. And blows up his leg, causing him to stumble. Upon regaining his feet a cannon-shot from the castle takes him in the chest, knocking him out. The CAUCUS makes a hasty retreat back to the trench.

Hearing the commotion, the RESIDENTS look up from their gardening. Upon seeing the Labor leader on the ground they look at the castle and cheer. HOWARD waves at them and they wave back before returning to their watering.

Rats them appear from the side and start picking at LATHAM's still breathing body. A few pick up the discarded banner and drag it to the trench, depositing it at the feet of BEAZLEY, who had stayed in the trench during the entire episode.

BEAZLEY is tall and imposing, dressed entirely in black armour and missing an arm and a leg. Strangely, despite the gaping wounds he doesn't bleed; an anomaly attributed to an unusual medical condition. The majority of the CAUCUS sit at his feet, some waiting, others sharpening knives; two others, RUDD and GILLARD stand to one side, eyeing the banner.

BEAZLEY: Ah, here it is

He picks up the banner

BEAZLEY: Noone minds if I keep this do they? [to RUDD]: Did you want to try and take it?

RUDD [dreamily]: I've often wanted to take up the grand banner; to march across green fields with my field marshal's baton showing the way, knocking Liberal members over the head with it; to scale Parliament's high walls and run up the flag; oh I can see myself now...

BEAZLEY [cutting him off] So you do want to try and take it?

Shaken from his reverie, RUDD looks out to the walls of the castle, then back at the motley bunch standing before BEAZLEY. Eyes narrowing, he deftly positions himself before BEAZLEY, using BEAZLEY's ample girth as shelter from any potential volley from the castle.

RUDD: No. You can keep it [muttering] For now.

BEAZLEY [to GILLARD]: And you?

In response to this, the CAUCUS begins yelling, and making a terrible noise. GILLARD imagines herself transported to the set of the Price of Right, standing before a baying crowd with LARRY EMDUR by her side.

LARRY EMDUR: So, Julia, any kids?


LARRY EMDUR: Oh, married?


LARRY EMDUR [non-plussed]: Well I am sure you have some other family members who'd enjoy this prize. Would you like to take it?

The crowd starts again, alternatively yelling "Take it" and "No, no". While she watches LARRY EMDUR begins to waver and expand, becoming BEAZLEY. GILLARD looks at the baying CAUCUS, a few of whom stand up and measure themselves against her slender frame, to see if they could hide behind her, before returning to sit on the leeward size of BEAZLEY.


GILLARD [walking to stand with RUDD and the CAUCUS]: No, you can keep it Kim. [sitting] We are right behind you.

Sterner Matters 28th January, 2005 10:02:04   [#] [1 comment] 

Go you manic clown!
Russell Degnan

I did this a few years ago now. But it is worth a rerun.

Passing Fancy 27th January, 2005 08:39:46   [#] [0 comments] 

Blind Visionaries
Russell Degnan

"But when it [Federation Square] opened and people saw it, they quickly changed their minds"
Peter Batchelor comparing it to Regional Fast Rail.

If only that were true.

The article linked to that quote details the many problems that have plagued the rail project, and resulted in huge cost blow outs. And yet the management of the project - while bad - is the not the reason this project is and will remain a failure in the eyes of people in regional areas.

They are annoyed because they wanted, and expected, better. People don't mind if projects go over time and budget. It is so common as to be expected. But they expect a result in the end. Federation Square was an attempt at something new and different. You may not like it, but they tried, and people appreciate that vision.

The Regional Fast Rail project is not viewed as visionary and advanced. The travel speeds are low, the time savings are minimal, but most of all, they miss the point of what regional people want. These trains need to serve as alternatives to driving to the city. The semi-retired, university students, and regional businessmen who come to the city a few times a week want commuter trains - fast, convenient, regular and affordable. They want, for example, a train that will get them to the cricket on Boxing Day before the start of play (which there wasn't).

They could have achieved this with extra services that all ran express, but they made the mistake of promising fast trains - implying very fast, when they meant slightly quicker - and of implementing a large project without a strategic vision for the long term.

It is vision that is lacking. Is this the last rail upgrade to the regions for ten, fifty, a hundred years? What if their population doubles? How do these places relate to the urban fringe and metropolitan activity centres? What sort of public transport exists within these regions themselves?

There has been a false dichotomy built up the between regional areas and Melbourne itself. This project shows how limited the thinking on regional matters is in State Parliament.

Sterner Matters 27th January, 2005 08:35:01   [#] [0 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: LV, January 2005
Russell Degnan

Continuing the Yarra theme. A hot summer day. Taken January 2003.

Melbourne Town 25th January, 2005 23:57:24   [#] [0 comments] 

New new new
Russell Degnan

I've changed the name of the blog. I never really liked the old one; it was merely a pun on the fact that a lot of the posts were also on CvP.

I finally have a theme of sorts, or at least an idea of what the bulk of what I will write about is related to. Namely, problems where one element - no matter how simple - pulls at others until all are too complex to solve. Every social problem in existence in other words.

And last, I am going to try and write more often, but that could be complete rubbish.

Passing Fancy 22nd January, 2005 17:49:45   [#] [0 comments] 

Phantom Limbs - Something For Kate
Russell Degnan

By all accounts the Single is just about dead - at least as an item of sale, not a selling point for an album on radio. The B-side may become the biggest loss from this phenomenen: the quirky track that didn't fit on an album, the obscure cover version, and the live track will need to be downloaded from obscure sites and obsessed fans instead.

Hopefully, collections of B-sides will become more readily available to compensate, particularly if this offering is a good guide. Something for Kate are an awesome band, deserving of more recognition beyond Australian shores, and improving with each new album. As with most good bands, there are a few gems hidden amongst the rocks they've left behind. If you like Something for Kate, you will like this. And if you don't like Something for Kate, what the hell is wrong with you?

Track Highlights:
Truly - A live bootleg, worth the price of the album alone. Would be close to my favourite SfK song.
Ashes to Ashes - A live version, sparse and moody, like all good covers, a fine song in its own right.
Anchorman II and The Green Line is Us, The Red Line is Them - Typical SfK songs: a simple riff building to aching vocals
A Remarkable Lack of Foresight - SfK crossed with Massive Attack. Moody, and brilliant.

Finer Things 22nd January, 2005 17:25:31   [#] [0 comments] 

Misinterpreting Our Institutions
Russell Degnan

As the Iraqi elections draw nearer and the assorted columnists debate the likelihood of achieving a result that is fair and accepted by the Iraqi people without exploding into further violence, a thought nags away at me.

In almost no democratic country does the first election figure in the democratic consciousness. Key dates in the slow expansion of the franchise are celebrated, but the first election is rarely mentioned, because it is over-shadowed by the granting of rights - to an independent state, to life, liberty, justice, property, speech and many others. A fact reflected in the celebrated documents of the slow rise to democracy. The Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

Hardly a people on the face of the earth have not, at some point in their history, had an opportunity to elect a leader, and done so. In so many though, the granting of power through elections has led to the abuse of that power, and to the degradation of the democratic process in order to maintain those powers.

The projected fractious relationship between majority Shiites and their Sunni counterparts should not have to exist. It only will, because the expectation of democratic institutions is the process of "bargaining, squabbling and learning to share power". That is, the holding and use of power among the claimants to it, not the limitation of it through checks and balances.

The world's pseudo-democracies never imbibed liberal ideas and the west seems to have forgotten them. But underlying the greatest leaps forward in democracy was not the right to vote and a say in power, but the curtailing of that power. The creation of institutions to prevent power being abused is a constant theme in the quest for liberty. Given the choice between having no vote, and having no liberty I know what I would choose. I am sure the Sunnis feel the same way.

Update: Rob studiously avoids taking a cheap shot at me from Benambra. Redirect any comments there.

Sterner Matters 21st January, 2005 01:41:19   [#] [0 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: LIV, January 2005
Russell Degnan

The Yarra River on a typical summer sunset. Taken December 2003.

Melbourne Town 19th January, 2005 23:52:32   [#] [0 comments] 

Melbourne, Population Growth and the High Rise
Russell Degnan

"The reality is that the population of the world is increasing every 50 years by double. The concept that people will not live in a high-rise is an uneducated dream. Vertical villages will happen because humanity has no choice."
Soheil Abedian

This statement, from the Saturday Age is utter bilge, yet once again The Age reporter has failed to show even the smallest portion of critical evaluation, printing it exactly as said.

There are two issues here. The first is the lamentable rubbish printed above. Based on the falling birthrates in almost every country in the world, the UN's world population projection estimates that the world's population will peak at 9 billion then slowly decline. There is no chance of it being remotely accurate, but I will tip it against the ludicrous doubling prediction of Mr. Abedian.

For Australia, the population is expected to stabilise at around 30 million - a not unreasonable prediction - with almost all of the growth from immigration. This means Melbourne, with a current population of 3.5 million will not grow beyond 5.25 million. This is beyond the limit of the water supply, but not too bad.

Melbourne has no need for high-rise living, not now, not ever. Nor for that matter do most other cities of the world - though Asia might be an exception. Those that have it already are largely the product of geographical and political circumstance - ie. Singapore and Hong Kong.

The second issue relates to Melbourne 2030, and its apparent density requirement that has drawn over-eager developers to the suburbs' activity centres like moths to a flame. Once again, a small amount of mathematics can go a long way. In reaching a peak population of about 5.5 million Melbourne will have 1.5 times the current population.

Melbourne does not need high rise towers to meet this population growth, even in the absence of any more land. The 50% increase in density that entails can be achieved by doubling the density - from detached to row-house for instance - on merely half the stock. Or, if that is too onerous, tripling - ie. a 3 storey block of flats - a quarter of it. Over 50 years! At no point will it involve building 20 storey or more towers. Ten storeys would be more than sufficient to not only provide adequate housing but to leave the current character of most suburbs untouched.

In short, the current interpretation of Melbourne 2030 is nothing short of a con-job by developers on a misinformed public and weak-willed politicians. It is about time someone called them on it.

Sterner Matters 18th January, 2005 01:36:42   [#] [4 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: LIII, January 2005
Russell Degnan

Swan St. Bridge, on the way home from the moonlight cinema. Taken January 2005.

Melbourne Town 10th January, 2005 23:17:29   [#] [0 comments]