Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Speaking of Federal politics, I've actually recently returned from a week in Canberra, part business, part pleasure.

I find Canberra such an interesting place - always so many things to do and see. And Canberra is so interesting simply as a concept.

I think its fascinating that the Sydney-Melbourne rivalry at the time of Federation was such that, rather than either city dare let the other take on the capital crown, the founding fathers thought they'd just start a capital city from scratch in the middle of a few sheep paddocks!

And 90 years on, Canberra still feels like a city in the middle of a sheep paddock, a city of major national monuments and institutions, built for the masses that never turned up. As you fly into town, looking out the aeroplane window, it's hard to spot any recognisable CBD, let alone anything resembling a metropolis. I wonder what heads of state think as they fly in?

It's a city of impressive, wide boulevards with barely any cars; massive white marbled foyers with barely any people; a fake, purpose built lake with barely any boats; a business district with barely any taxis (believe me, I've tried!).

It's a city of circles and symmetrical street plans where, in theory, everything is so easy to get to, but in practice a wrong turn can have you hurtling off on some large roundabout to nowhere. A city where you can attend a cabinet meeting one minute, and 5 minutes later go for a stroll in the bush and spot a kangaroo. It's hot in the summer, and cold in the winter, and a blow fly's paradise.

Initially, at the turn of the last century, while the planners dreamed up their new city, Federal Parliament sat in Melbourne. I actually think Melbourne would have made a good capital city - it has the right stately feel about it, and feels like an important metropolis rather than a country town. Sydney would have whinged, but ultimately would have taken over as the party capital and gotten over it, and boasted that it had the harbour anyway so who care's whether the town missed out on having a few extra public servants and bureaucrats hanging about.

But that said, we would then be without Canberra, and probably be the poorer for it. For all its faults and contradictions, it's a fascinating place to visit.


At 1:37 am, Blogger David said...

great post. some really good observations on canberra... funny too!!

i really like the place
we went there on holidays in september.... lots of fun

we had dinner outdoors in the middle of a shopping centre... it was fantastic

the shopping areas remind me of wollongong - only canberra isn't ugly like wollongong.

At 5:10 am, Blogger Andy M said...

Wollongong's not that ugly is it??

I love the photo of Parliament House with sheep grazing in the foreground. Classic!

At 4:47 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My hubby and I (he is an engineer) and his friend (architect) were discussing Canberra at dinner last night, the design etc. They had interesting things to say but I can't remember them all - sorry but funny I read you discussing this when we had last night :)


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