About a decade and a half ago, my left-wing friends started coming back from Europe and lecturing anyone who would listen on how everything was better there. Two main points stood out from the rest: In Europe you had to pay for plastic bags, and its cities had great underground train networks. The lefties of my early adulthood are now well and truly entrenched in the Australian power structure, and they have achieved both these aims.
The designs for the new underground stations in central Melbourne look impressive. The Europeans take great care to ensure that new buildings and infrastructure projects are aesthetically pleasing, and rightly so. Socialist Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews released an image, via tweet, of the planned Parkville station:
(This bypassing of the usual media channels is surely a threat to our democracy..)
The plan is to build a new Metro Tunnel which will run from Kensington in the west, and build five new stations, at Arden, Parkville, CBD North, CBD South, and Domain. I am impressed:
Let’s get to the heart of the matter. The company which lost the $6 billion contract to build the East-West Link, Lendlease, is getting a $6 billion contract to build a strong proportion of the new rail system, so it’s sorted. Yes, the government is upgrading infrastructure all over the city and state, and is following through with the former Liberal government’s plan to eliminate major rail crossings. But this is a transport plan which will benefit mostly the constituents of the inner city, and along with the planned Western Distributor, Melbourne’s west.
This is the very definition of pork-barrelling.
The East-West Link was vilified by North Fitzroy NIMBYs as an ideological pork-barrel for Melbourne’s affluent east, but in reality it was a crucial piece of infrastructure which would have been a massive boost to Victoria’s economy, by reducing travel times for both commuters and truckers. The public servants, artists and university students of central Melbourne may now be more inclined to vote for Labor rather than the Greens, as they spend their weekend travelling from Brunswick for a vegetarian breakfast, to the inner west for an Ethiopian lunch, to St Kilda for some music in the evening, but the inner north with continue to be at a near standstill from Burke Road on the Eastern Freeway to Racecourse Road in Flemington. Trucks will continue to clog Alexandra Parade and Elliot Avenue, where the residents were so against the tunnel on environmental grounds.
Bizarrely, my left-wing friends never mentioned that the glorious European metropolises they idolised regularly had ring roads, often several. The East-West project would have essentially linked up all of Melbourne’s freeways and tollways to create its own complete ring road. (If the east end of the Western Ring Road could ever be linked to the Eastlink, we would effectively have two.) When it comes to a choice between roads or rail, ¿Por qué no los dos? If the Libs ever get back in power, we certainly will. The current federal Liberal government seems especially good at implementing Labor social spending policies which will bankrupt our nation.
Melbourne may well be able to look forward to a world-class, European-style public transport system. But if the welfare state is allowed to continually expand and taxes remain high, don’t be too surprised if those utilising the facilities aren’t entirely grateful…