Saturday, August 2, 2008

Duffy and the Ku-ring-gai Liberal Nimby elite

Is perversity enough? Does sheer contrariness constitute a philosophy, or even a sufficient moral and ethical basis for an argument, and more to the point, since we are talking Michael Duffy, for a decent newspaper column?

Duffy is very much of the school of agin it. You could imagine a wet droopy socialist walking through the Duffy door and asking the Duff what he's rebelling against. Duffy would give the hapless doughnut an icy stare, and say what have you got?

There's a quiet satisfaction to be found in giving school teachers and do gooders and lefties and greens a sound birching, warming up their brains with a lashing of common sense that only neocons and pie eating workers can understand and share.

That's why Duffy's latest thoughts confound yet again - as in his article "Democracy that leaves people's views out of the equation"  - he takes up the cudgels on behalf of rich long-suffering Liberals centered in that peculiar northern Sydney collection of wealthy suburbs dubbed Ku-ring-gai. It seems Duffy is actually a green, a conservationist, and his concern is for biodiversity, and that rarest of marsupials, one that is often threatened with extinction, the dinner-suited albino company director.

Duffy is troubled - it seems that 53 cranes are working away on $1.75 billion worth of new apartment blocks for the municipality, producing three thousand flats and perhaps - thinking two persons a flat - perhaps six thousand rats fleeing like vermin from the inner and outer west to nest in the leafy northern suburbs.

There's an explanation of course - a Labor government created juggernaut, "fuelled by developer donations with a tinge of class hatred, is rolling through the Liberal heartland". 

The valiant council opposed the assault for years, but then evil Frank Sartor took away its planning powers and gave them to a panel. "Now, along the railway in suburbs such as Killara and Lindfield, five-storey concrete boxes rise from the fertile soil".

Have you ever read such rhetoric - the 'fertile soil' trapped beneath concrete boxes (nothing but acres and acres of tar and cement) and all tinged by class hated. For you see, this is all to do with the liveability of the city, by which the good burgers mean their liveability.  Duffy (though  he hastens to add that he doesn't live in Ku-ring-gai 'and don't aspire to') loves the fact that the place exists, with its trees and gardens and big Federation houses, providing diversity in the city, and above all a place where the well-off and the wealthy can retire to after a hard day ripping the guts out the working class without being reminded of their awkward presence in developer-provided squats even a battery hen would consider low rent.

Next thing you know the upper north is going to look just the same as Kogarah or Rouse Hill - never mind that Rouse Hill doesn't look anything like Kogarah, the point is clear enough - those places are full of dreadful working class people, yabbering in tongues, and carpeted in concrete boxes so the rats can nest and lead their dull creepy working class lives without the sight of the rich. 

"Soon you'll be able to get off the train at Turramurra and it will look just the same as Kogarah or Rouse Hill. That might be someone's dream, but it's not mine", opines Duffy.

Weep in despair, you spiritually connected to the land children of the dreaming, you Turramurra types brought down by the Liberal-hating Labor party who can see an easy way to destroy the people and ignore their voice - the voice of ordinary people who just want to live their wealthy lives in unfettered privacy without a lot of apartment blocks within their purview. Is there anything more simple, more human or more humble than this joyous Camelot?

What to be done? Well it seems one of the heavies in Transfield (steady, no snickering, what a noble company, making such noble contributions to transport, power and all other kinds of infrastructure) has organised an action group called newDemocracy as a lobby group, to balance the way the Labor Party is acting. It seems membership of that wretched party is now about 2% when compared to what it was fifty years ago, and in the hands of Stalinists. But then so has the Liberal party membership dropped in a similarly catastrophic way. But wait, flying in from Perth to help out is former Liberal politician Fred Chaney, coming all the way to explain to the rich how they need to fight back, need to reclaim the political process, not by party membership but by "deliberative democracy".

To get the ball rolling, newDemocracy is holding a meeting in February, involving 150 citizens from around Australia, who will look at ways of improving the political system. And as a first step in finding these people, this very week they have mailed out 9000 letters of invitation to people selected at random from the electoral roll.

Now that's a novel way of proceeding. Never mind the Rudster's calling together of the best of the brainy types. No, this is more the philosophy of The Dice Man - let's just roll the die and see if we can turn up a six. Or one. Whatever. Be random. The lord will provide.

High on the agenda will be the prevention of the destruction of Ku-ring-gai. Duffy wants it preserved "just as biodiversity is preserved in nature by protecting different ecological systems in national parks". 

The rich are an ecological system? Some might think Duffy has, unfortunately, jumped the shark, but isn't there a little bit of green in all of us? Aren't we all keen conservationists? Don't tell me this is just a bit of regional Nimbyism. After all, some of the rich make their gardens available for inspection by the common person at least once a year, so if they don't want something to happen in their backyard, this is surely good for all of us. 

Why shouldn't developers develop apartments conveniently located near heavy rail? They just shouldn't do it on the upper north shore line. There's something intractably different about the north shore which makes them immune from development. Perhaps it's the leafiness? Or the grassiness? Or the floweriness? It keeps them immune. Let Labor and their developer mates ravage every other suburb that is somehow connected to heavy rail, but leave the upper north shore alone so that after a hard day installing tar and cement, the developers and their builder and lawyer and corporate mates can have a quiet night to recover their strength. 

I know, I know. Reality check time. Sydney's a tough place to live and it's going to get tougher. There are a lot of strains and pressures, and isn't it fun to see the wealthy start to kick and squeal as their life style is threatened? You can bet none of them ever gave a thought to Sydney airport, or the people living under it, except as they hastily drove their way through the inner south west, their windows shut against the alien smells of the rats living there in compressed concrete bunkers built like a Soviet gulag, while the rich, God bless them, were on their way to the south of France. Thank God for the freeways - no wonder Duffy wants more of them.

Who'd ever think it was possible to feel a twinge of sympathy for Frank Sartor, or Michael Costa or other members of the reprehensible Labor government? But now it's hard not to cheer them on, to have that class hatred spew out in the world, to let loose the baying hounds on the soft Liberals who live amongst the earthy leaf mould on the north shore. Go it, tear them up, fang them and their newDemocracy movement, degut them and while you're at it, shift all the wretched poor of Auburn into their tree-laden paradise.

Meantime, here's a tip for the northern suburbs types who never venture into the wilds of the west and so understand nothing. It isn't class hatred  that make the Labor government do this, it's just power and the desire to stay in power and keep the limos and avoid the public transport system they're incapable of fixing. No, the Labor party, once it's got a safe seat, spends all its time ignoring any of the needs of the working class stooges who voted them into power - just look at the facilities and services denied to those western dwellers who live far away from the Elysian fields promised to the head honchos of Transfield.

But you could have it all tomorrow,  the power and the glory, if you just got rid of the Christian right who want to spend time telling people how to live (and how not to have abortions or homosexual sex). All you have to do is promise to run the town in good managerial style. It wouldn't be that hard, to manage the town better than Labor (and not even in the style of previous brave premiers like Robin (nee Robert) William Askin, who apparently salivated at the sight of a brown paper bag. And you just have to promise it, nobody expects you to actually do it. The town's ungovernable and unmanageable and it's only going to get worse.

You could keep your leafy domains on the north shore, you might even be able to install gates on the Harbour Bridge so that the whole of the North Shore could become a gated community. Okay that wouldn't work - you have to let the lemmings go to work in North Sydney - but what about putting a gate across the highway just after Chatswood? A little bit of Roseville might be lost, but dammit, someone has to make the sacrifice.

Don't harumph about the challenge being to bring the community back into the political process. What you and the Duffster mean to say is that it should be fair dibs to the rich, and fuck off the rest of you. And that's fair enough, provided you promise to let a few crumbs droop from the tables of the rich, in the direction of all the rats who are forced to pack into their western suburbs squats. For pack they will, because Sydney is fast moving in the direction of Manhattan or Hong Kong, such is the pressure and the pricing on living space and facilities and services, and yet it's a colonial city with goat tracks as its original planning design, and incapable of being shunted into high density living without much pain. 

Of course Duffy thinks everyone should go live in Kellyville and enjoy the high life, where of course there's no decent public transport, poor facilities and dreams of a metro system which will never happen (as opposed to sensible plans for urban consolidation featuring public transport right next to your apartment block). 

But as Duffy shows by his embrace of Ku-ring-gai fear and loathing, his thinking on urban planning is reflexively silly, and driven by some deeply emotional and passionate urges which are never revealed in his articles. The mystery of the Duffy grows deeper, the rebel's cause now is the excruciatingly well off rich. In the meantime, the destruction of lifestyle for millions upon millions in Sydney not living in the northern suburbs grows apace. How will the eternal rebel respond?

So how does this week's effort rate:

Concern for the rich: 11
Appropriate lack of interest verging on contempt for the poor: 11
Gut hatred of the Labor party and its satanic minions: 11
Actual solutions to Sydney's planning issues: 1
Actual solutions for rats needing a nest, however humble: 2
Insights into Duffy: 9

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think Michael Duffy is sensible warning about the danger of overcrowding in Turramurra. It's all very well to say we should put flats near railway lines, but if we keep doing this then it's only a matter of time before every area along a railway line looks like one long line of flats.

Turramurra has always been different because it's full of trees. Those of us who live there have paid a premium to live among the trees. It's not fair to let developers pull them all down for highrise.

Let's keep Turramurra green.