From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.


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Brushtail Graphics

Nathan’s Folly
The problem with the CBD Metro

11 September 2009

The morning was clear, bright and windy when I strolled across Werrong Lane to the Brushtail Café. Old Possum was propping up the bar with a long black and the papers, chuckling to himself.

“Ye Gods! This McGurk killing. I feel like I’ve stepped back in time 30 years. Any moment now, Peter Baldwin will stagger through the door with his face beaten to a pulp”. He sipped his long black with wry amusement. “I mean, Joe Meissner gets a mention here in the SMH. Remember how the papers used to style him ‘The sub-machinegun salesman of South Sydney’ …  and Richo. He’s wandered onto the set as well … I thought they died years ago. It’s like living in an episode of ‘Life on Mars’.”

“What is it about the ALP? Where do they get these friends and relations?”

“I call it the new, fast, shonky money factor. Once upon a time they used to get their money from the unions and ordinary working folk. Now they get most of it from seedy developers and merchant banks.”

Just then Joadja came back to the bar. She’d been in the back room making up placards for a demo against the CBD Metro proposal and brought in a piece of her handiwork to show off. She’d found a particularly witty photo of David Campbell and Nathan Rees and had embellished it with dialogue. Campbell was asking “But what’ll we do for the Westies, Nathan?” and Nathan was saying “They’ll just have to wait”.

 “The whole insidious problem with the CBD Metro idea is that it’ll completely sabotage any future expansion of the heavy rail network”, Old remarked.

“Why’s that?”

“Because the city is the choke-point for the entire network. Sooner or later –  and the way people are being forced back onto public transport by peak oil, it’s going be sooner – we’ll need a couple of additional rail tracks through the city.

“Anyway, years ago, the rail planners reserved a couple of corridors under the city, and the most important one is under Pitt Street. That’s the one they’re going to use for the CBD Metro.”

“So if they use that,  we can’t increase CityRail services?”

“Exactly … well not by much anyway. Whereas, if you unblock that choke-point with extra heavy rail track,  you could increase services right across Sydney by 50 per cent. That means a station that now has a train every 15 minutes could have a train every ten minutes. And that would apply to over 250 stations. That’s not something you want to throw away.

“But what the CBD Metro is going to do is worse than that. The devil is in the detail. You see, the Metro would have to go under the CityRail lines at Martin Place and at Wynyard. That puts it deep down. I mean really deep. It isn’t practical to go any deeper, so in the future, there couldn’t be any new tunnels running north-south through the city – and that’s the death-knell for any expansion of services.

“But wait – it gets even worse. Some metro-style lines would be a good thing, but this silly CBD Metro idea also prevents them from happening in the future.”

“Where would these good metro lines go?”

“Well there really should be a line to Mosman and the northern Beaches, and metro would be ideal for that, and a Northern Beaches line could run through to the CBD then turn south East and go down to University of NSW and Maroubra Junction. There are a couple of  different planning options for that, but with the CBD Metro in place you couldn’t build either because the CBD Metro would be in the way.” 

“But hang on … there are only two tracks over the Harbour Bridge. Isn’t that a choke-point too?”

“There’s a bit of spare capacity there, but it will be pretty soon. There’s a couple of options for fixing that problem. The CityRail boys always wanted a rail tunnel under the harbour and, in the long-term it will be necessary, but obviously it would be very costly and it suffers from the problem that it has to go deep, which means steep gradients – not good for trains. That Dr Glazebrook from UTS has come up with another option. He’d take back the two eastern lanes of the bridge and use them for rail – they used to be used for trams you know.”

“Sounds like a great idea to me. It’d be a tiny fraction of the cost of a new under-harbour crossing. I mean, traffic isn’t growing, in fact it’s falling on most roads and the harbour tunnel is way below capacity. The cars can just go there.”

“Okay troops, time to leave for the demo” said Joadja emerging from the back room with the rest of her placards.

“Why not?” I said. “We just gotta stop this desperate mob of weird incompetents from stuffing up our beloved city any more. But Old, you mentioned that CityRail had plans for all these options for rail under the CBD. How come these things aren’t out there in the public domain. Why should they be a state secret?”

“Why indeed.”

(There is no suggestion Joe Meissner, Richo, any Rees Government identity or indeed any of the 40 official suspects were involved in the murder of Michael McGurk).