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A Canberra dispatch

November 23, 2010

Spending two days here interviewing for the review into the ALP’s election performance … with my colleagues, Steve Bracks, former Premier of Victoria, and Senator John Faulkner.  But with every visit to the national capital I’m reminded of what a visitor from West Germany said of Canberra in the 1970s: it’s what the GDR wanted to look like but never succeeded in managing.

Or, another view…I think it’s the Scandinavian vision of Australia that was at the heart of the Whitlam program. A crèche on every street corner, a sympathetic social worker for every family, native trees defining every streetscape. Wholesome and healthy and funded with lavish tax dollars and a government sector consuming 50 percent of the economy.

Or another perspective: it’s where they set the outrageously overambitious immigration targets that stress other Australian cities while enjoying the lowest population densities of all Australian capitals.

  1. November 23, 2010 3:30 pm

    Dear Sir,

    We run an online news paper in Australia. I would like to request you for your permission to post some of your content in our website.


  2. Deborah Clark permalink
    November 30, 2010 4:17 pm

    I left a comment last week about your tired, cliched, slick, cheap characterisation of Canberra on this blog and I see that you decided not to post it. How cowardly. Clearly you don’t wish any adverse comments about your opinions on your blog. Instead you publish a request for someone to quote you. How revealing. I received no contact from you, no defence of your position, my opinion – formed after living in the city for twenty years – was just eliminated. Leave a comment indeed, but don’t expect it to enter a debate. Mr Carr is too busy opining about the rest of the world to listen to anyone else.

  3. Deborah Clark permalink
    December 1, 2010 9:04 am

    My comment is my original one, left last week, which gives my complaint of yesterday some context:

    I would have thought that someone with Bob Carr’s education, experience and alleged sophistication were able to make a distinction between the city of Canberra, home to 350,000 Australian citizens, and the Federal Government. His pompous, cheap clichéd descriptions of Canberra as sanitised, soulless and smug are more often the province of tabloid columnists who, like Bob, probably spend a couple of days here every few years, no doubt being lunched at the best restaurants by their political cronies, who also spend next-to-no-time here. Canberra is a city of people who work and live and have the same frustrations and concerns and pleasures and grief as other Australians; ‘lavish tax dollars’ are not particularly evident in the suburban reaches of this city, nor indeed in the city centre. For an advocate of bushwalking and healthy living it little behooves Mr Carr to sneer at a city which takes some pride in its landscape: its suburban streets ringed and threaded with trees and hills, the opportunities for walking and cycling and playing within cooee of its urban centres, its wildlife. These simple things do not represent ‘lavish tax dollars’ so much as decent urban planning. Got a problem with that Mr Carr? When criticising wholesome and healthy perhaps you should look again at, say, the eastern suburbs of Sydney where I don’t doubt there is a creche on every corner.

  4. Bob Carr permalink
    December 2, 2010 1:58 pm

    The lowest urban densities of any capital city in Australia.

    The home of the people who support the doubling of immigration which forces increased densities
    everywhere else.

    That was my point.

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