The government we deserve

Peter Matters writes: Re. “NDIS must be thoroughly thought through” (yesterday). All legislation — and most other issues — are being made subject to so-called “practical considerations”, weasel word for “can we afford it?” Yes, we can afford it. The problem is that the people are prepared to pay any taxes  government asks for —  provided such government has earned the respect of their electors. While in Scandinavia and a few other countries such respect is usually forthcoming, this is clearly not the case in Australia. A quite disgusting example is the state governments’ reliance on the pokie revenue, which is nothing else but a flat rate tax on the poorest section of the population.

Don‘t blame the politicians, blame us, the people. We have been spoiled by a profusion of pork barrelling assisted by a gerrymander here and there — see the recent preference of the Victorian government for a road rather than a rail tunnel. If we, as a people, will not very soon realize the wisdom of JFK’s dictum that “think not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” here, in the USA and elsewhere, we will not only botch the NDIS legislation but leave our children before the end of the century a global toxic rubbish dump.


Doug Clark writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday). Thanks for the link to the Denmark song — I can see why it’s favourite: catchy syncopated beat; babe singer; synchronised drum marching to bring a tear to a former RSM (of the school cadet unit). Also, great to see that Ukraine got Kim Kardashian with her post-baby body to sing its entry…

Up in the air …

David Page writes: Re. “Carry on up the lock-up!” (yesterday). I’ve lived in Canberra for the better part of 50 years and love the place. I’ve watched it grow and develop over that time, sometimes in good ways, other times in bad ways, but overall I still think it is one of the best places in Australia to live, and, of course, Australia is by far and away the best country in the world in which to live.

The local government here loves “firsts”. First with gay marriage legislation (sadly overturned by the Howard government). First with bans on smoking in public spaces.  First with biodegradable shopping bags. So it is no surprise to me that when it came to celebrating Canberra’s 100th birthday, the organisers would be looking for some sort of “first” as well. Art in the form of a balloon makes a kind of sense as well, given this is without doubt the ballooning capital of Australia.  I get it. Kinda. But … the Skywhale?

To be fair, I went and peered through the website, and watched the videos (which I think I can summarise as 10 minutes of my life I won’t get back again).  So, yes, I did my research, gave it some thought and I still hate it.

Why do I hate it?  Apart from being one of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen, I can’t see how it relates in any way whatsoever to Canberra and the centenary celebrations, and the overall price tag of $300,000 seems a fair whack of money to NOT own something that will fly here a few times and then disappear off round the world to fly 100 or so times before being unusable (which is because the material breaks down and stops holding the hot air any more).

Can you imagine the Skywhale floating gracelessly over, say, Melbourne (given they have some sort of claim to be more culturally diverse than, say, Sydney)? Are people going to look up and say “Oh look! Wow! That SO reminds me of Canberra and nationhood and the cultural value of the city as the political center of Australia!” Or are they going to be saying “WTF is THAT mildly obscene thing?!? Quick Jimmy, avert your eyes, it has girl bits you don’t need to know about yet!!”, or perhaps “They spent $300,00 on THAT?  Typical politicians, completely out of touch with reality, we could have used that money fixing up our local tuck-shop instead …”.

And to add insult to injury the Canberra taxpayers don’t even OWN the thing and have no say over where it gets flown, after having spent double what it might cost to have built, say, a floating Parliament House.  Global Balloons and Patricia Piccinini must be laughing all the way to the bank.  It makes me kick myself for not having dreamt up some whacked-out idea of my own and cashing in on it, if all it took was completely ignoring the core themes and objectives of the centenary celebrations.

As a Canberra taxpayer, I would have preferred my money to have gone towards commissioning an elaborate (and preferably mutated) bronze statue of the artist, located it strategically at, say, the Mitchell recycling centre, where it could be admired by generations of Canberrans dumping their crap, and provoking them to reflect on how long it will be before we all have to move to Queanbeyan because there is so much art building up around the place that there is nowhere to live any more.

P.S.  #2 son describes the Skywhale as “Flying cow p-rn”.  Seriously. His words. Can’t help but agree …

Peter Fray

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