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

Find out how little has changed since Bob Carr came to power. Download the PDF of Nick Possum’s classic 1994 comic book Roads of Doom. 12 pages, A4 format, 1.9 Mb

Carr stalled in policy gridlock

1 May 2005

On my way back from an investigation in Broken Hill I stayed overnight in a Dubbo motel. In the morning I drove to Sydney via Orange, and stopped for breakfast. There, in a little café, I picked up the Sydney Morning Herald and saw that the RTA’s M4 East project had been shelved, pending an all-in bureaucratic talkfest to decide where to go next. Clearly the Carr government was in disarray.

When I drove down from the mountains, Sydney was shrouded in a thick pale-brown layer of pollution – crap from car and truck exhausts. After several windless days you couldn’t even see the western suburbs, let alone Centrepoint Tower.

Carr’s has been a government of marking time; a government of bottom-line managerialism; a government that seems chronically incapable of making the big changes we need if Sydney is to be, once again, a pleasant, livable, city.

It’s not as if he hasn’t had time. A few months before he came to power he had this to say in the Sydney Morning Herald (July 25, 1994):

Sydney is up against its limits. The level of air pollution will soon begin climbing again after years of reductions. There is chronic congestion on a basically 19th century road system – and tollways just redistribute the problems …

Cross regional rail links are the priority. Without new public transport some families in western Sydney face a need for three or four cars. So the Los Angeles future – a sprawling city serviced only by freeways – is no rhetorical threat.

In fact a Coalition victory at the next election means the RTA having their heads...

In our first term, a Labor Government will upgrade rail links in Sydney's west and south-west. It's a centrepiece commitment. We will link Parramatta to the other key employment centres ... and examine the feasibility of light rail along Sunnyholt Road corridor...

Well, Bob has had ten long years, and what did we get: the RTA has had its head, construction of traffic-generating motorways hasn’t faltered, CityRail has deteriorated to the point where it can’t even guarantee enough drivers to man the trains, car use has steadily increased and air pollution stains the sky brown most days of the year. And still the government is stalled in a policy gridlock of its own making.

Since Carr came to office there have been almost no new public transport initiatives. Those completed during his time: Airport Rail Link, the Olympic Park rail link, Sydney Light Rail, the duplication of the East Hills Line, were started or at least announced by the previous, Liberal, government. The only cross regional links started under Labor are the Parramatta-Chatswood line – half of which has been abandoned – and the half-baked western suburbs busway, which ought to have been a fast, high-quality, light rail link.

Either the man knows what is right, but is so weak he can’t bring himself to do it, or he was, all along, the greatest political conman this state has ever seen.

So what to make of the M4 East backdown? Evil Mick Costa is putting the best possible face on the debacle – even claiming it was his idea – and hinting that The Big Rethink will endorse the RTA’s dream of a super truck tunnel from Port Botany to the M4, but I doubt it. No minister likes his department to suffer a setback on a project in which a heap of work has been invested – his prestige takes a beating, and there’s no certainty he’ll get his way on the truck tunnel.

Governments only have a certain amount of money to play with, and when one project falters, another usually makes the running. That’s what happened to the RTA in 1988 when the M5 East motorway project ran into determined public opposition – the airport rail link got a head start on its rival and ultimately beat the RTA to half a billion dollars of government money. The road ayatollahs wept tears of blood, and the M5 East took a back seat for the next five years.

We can only hope that planning minister Craig Knowles really has decided that enough is enough, and is throwing his weight behind the push for a comprehensive 10 year plan to get Sydney’s public transport up to scratch. It’s not as if there’s a lack of good proposals: there’s the Western FastRail, proposed extensions to the light rail service, and the plan to double the rail tracks on the Harbour Bridge and reserve lanes for buses.

My sources in Cabinet tell me that after the Sydney Morning Herald broke the proposal to build the Western FastRail project in an exclusive on 15 March, Costa bragged in Cabinet that, just to get the FastRail off the front pages, he’d revived the abandoned proposal for an M6 motorway straight through Rockdale’s small remaining strip of parkland. It didn’t work, but the story rings true. Mick is the sort of macho shoot-from-the-lip wanker who’d do that, just to score off his political rivals.

And see also ...

Ship of State
Published in the anti-motorway newspaper Hell on Wheels in January 1997, Nick's hilarious behind-the-scenes look at how the Carr Government arrives at major infrastructure decisions was an eerie foretaste of blunders to come. A complete facsimile of the print edition. 4 pages, A4 format, 580 Kb.