Friday, 27 November 2009

Things they could fix in Canberra #4

Currently in Canberra, there is a marketing or propaganda campaign about how Canberra is such a great place to be as they have more restaurants per capita than any other location in Australia. I am not disagreeing with that, especially seeing how I do not have any statistical facts of any other locations in Australia. What I am suggesting is that Canberra needs to fix the restaurants themselves.

Maybe the restaurant situation is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to deeper problems that Canberra have. The main two issues I see with the restaurants are:
  1. The quality of food is not good in comparison to similar restaurants in other cities.
  2. They are over priced!
Canberra suffers from an effect I have termed "a captive market" or "a captive audience". The competition is far less, and hence the mentality of the public has been adjusted to think "well - there's nothing else better, and there's nothing else cheaper - so we'll just have to accept this as the way things are!"

For example, the average meal price is more expensive than the same meal in Melbourne. Chinese dumplings are generally larger and cheaper in Melbourne than in Canberra. Same goes for Vietnamese pho soup as well. Yum Cha will have a bigger range. Value meals in some fast food outlets include drinks in Melbourne, whereas in Canberra, they will be the same price but without drinks. The souvlakis in Canberra do not taste as good as the ones in Melbourne.

I am not saying that every restaurant in Canberra has poor standards or over charges. I do not even think that they are even over charging, as they are just charging what they think is the correct price. It is just that the correct is higher in Canberra than in other locations. Transport and freight costs can only explain so much - the "captive market" phenomenon could explain the rest.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Things they could fix in Canberra #3

This one is going to be hard to address or fix in Canberra: the public service mentality.

I've been thinking about this one for a long time and how to describe it. Basically the whole city is fuelled by the rest of Australia through tax dollars. Canberra makes nothing but rules for Australia. It does not produce any goods, it does not have to compete on the market, and it does not have to be nice to people. It tells people what they should do and how they should behave, and the politicians and public servants that work here behave accordingly.

I understand that this is a very broad brush to paint with, and I'm not saying it applies to everyone in the public service - just the majority of them. It's worse at the high level. The executives for every government department have fought hard to get up to their perches. They do not want to let go of their salaries or their benefits. They will give a helping hand to their friends and family. Once people start working for the public service as permanents, they stop thinking of their roles as a privilege, but more as a right. This concept also flows out through their personalities - you get a feeling after a while that the whole town is full of people going "what's in it for me?"

Working for the public is usually a thankless task - much like being a police officer. I know it's a calling I could not answer. The police officer puts themselves in physical danger, often for strangers, and not because it is a high paying or glamorous role. There are police officers that join to be police officers, and there are police officers that have joined because they cannot get another job, or they want to exploit the role for its benefits. Some of the police officers that currently exploit the benefits, could have started with the best intentions of wanting to assist the public. I'm sure most public servants joined the public service in an attempt "to do some good" - but it appears a group of them have forgotten about that - and that mentality is filtering through this government bureaucracy powered town.


What can be done to fix this?

There is no simple fix. The obvious one I can think of is to shut Canberra down and to re-allocate all the government department duties to the other major capital cities. Canberra's location has failed with modern technology. One of the reasons it was located where it was, was in the day, missiles from ships could not be launched and reached Canberra - that was the early 1900s. In 2009, armchair generals can press buttons from their computers and send enough armaments to wipe out Canberra many times over. The reason for it to exist as a planned inland city has been nullified with the advancement of technology.

I look forward to any other better ideas...

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Things they could fix in Canberra #2

Another aspect of Canberra that really lets it down is the problem of car parking.

I believe this comes down to two things:

  1. Canberra is overly planned - without much thought of the future.
  2. The residence of Canberra just accept things as they are.

This is not the first time this topic has been brought up for discussion on the web. It has already been raised on Canberra's own soapboax website. For a city of around 400,000 people, why does the "metered" parking locations charge as much as cities like Melbourne? They recently raised the price of all day parking in the satellite cities of Canberra from $5 to $6. While I don't have a problem in that, I'd like to know why it was raised. What was the reason it was raised? It was just accepted.

My main gripe with the problem of parking in Canberra is not the city parking, but with the on-street parking in the suburbs. Where is it? Why are there signs around the suburbs during weekdays that prohibit parking in the streets? That one should be obvious to most people - it is to stop people from parking in the streets, and then funnel them into the government paid parking lots, or the commercial parking lots. That is unfair!!

Secondly, on the same point of above, why are the streets so poorly designed? The streets are narrow, but looking at houses that come off them, the front common area on them (ie. the land between the border of their property and the street) is sometimes as wide as 30m. This is truly a waste of space, and shows a considerable short-sightedness when it comes to planning. While this may have kept Canberra attractive in 1920, it really did not have the future vision of cars included or a population of over 20,000.

As a side note, I've been doing some thinking about Canberra and what makes it the way it is. Speaking with the locals that live in Canberra, the term "planned city" comes up a lot. Doing some searching on the internet gave this interesting article: "New Towns for the 21st Century: The Planned vs. the Unplanned City". Simply stating it, the planning may have worked at one time, for a certain set of people - including the planner themselves, but if it has not evolved in the correct manner, the result is a souless city. Canberra could have been better. Melbourne is an example of a planned city that evolved.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Things they could fix in Canberra #1

I've decided to come up with a mini-series in this blog, on where I've been working for about 2 years - Canberra. I keep hearing nice things about Canberra - and it's mainly from the locals that do not know any better, as they like their little village in the middle of no where.

I started off with doing some searching on the web to see if there was any pro-Canberra discussions. I found this interesting article on the travelmsn website: Canberra: Near the beaten track by Sophie Lamond. The author has really done a good attempt of selling the whole concept that Canberra is a great place, and has something for everyone. The article reads well - but the "kick-in-the-guts" for the article is the comments to the article. Most of them comment about Canberra being an awful place to be. Sadly, after working there for 2 years, I would have to agree with them. The author herself also mentioned on her profile page, that when she gets a long weekend, she would rather leave Canberra than stay in it.

Stating that, I thought I would compile a series of posts, based on what I think could be fixed in Canberra. They will all be titled "Things they could fix in Canberra #n". Feel free to comment on them.


Things they could fix in Canberra #1: The single lane of the Gungahlin Drive Extension, and additionally around the Glenloch interchange - who's idea was it for a single lane? The instant someone slows to admire the scenery - that is the whole of the peak hour traffic coming to a complete stop. I do not think I know of one motorist that loves the concept of a bottleneck while trying to get somewhere.

Look for more quick comments about Canberra in the future...

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Macarons in Melbourne

Not to be confused with the biscuits you have with coffee (ie. macaroons), if you are in Melbourne, you should make the effort to find La Tropezienne (Glenferrie Road, Hawthrown) and try their delicious macarons.

La Tropezienne macaronsLa Tropezienne macarons
Awesome with coffee... not easy to resist...

Friday, 6 November 2009

Magic the card gathering game...

I recently started getting into Magic The Gathering. For those of you that have never heard of it, it's essentially a card game where competing players "cast" spells that result in damaging each other (or themselves). Damage your opponent more, and you win. I had played it many years ago, and also the PC video game version, but I have never had the cards to play. I do not intend to spend hundreds on it, and it is more of a social thing than a competitive aspect.

Does this summarise me well?

You are both rational and emotional. You value creation and discovery, and feel strongly about what I create. At best, you're innovative and intuitive. At worst, you're scattered and unpredictable.