Sunday, November 05, 2006

How could Sydney get it so wrong?

Then there's the thriving, hustling metropolis, where every opportunity to show intelligence or courage or (God forbid) altruism is mowed under the determined asphalt of commercial tackiness. Take the huge Carlton & United Breweries site on Broadway. Take Homebush and Rhodes Peninsula, spewing dioxins into the upper atmosphere in order to roll out more third-rate housing. Take Botany Bay, or Cooks Cove, or Green Square, or the vast tackiness spreading up and down the poor old Parramatta River. Take East Darling Harbour, our chance for a real flagship of eco-design, right at our ceremonial front door, now set to become more bottom-line junk, like King Street Wharf, only more, bigger, glassier. Most of them were, or are, Government land; all offered the opportunity for real social and cultural play. What do we get? More of the same.

This is a waste and a belittlement. A waste of our energies, as a city, and a belittlement of our intelligence and enterprise. To a large extent it is driven by the narrowness of our politicians, who talk tough but timidly follow the do-nothing-stay-in-power model of government perfected by Bob Carr and John Howard and become more philistine by the moment.

Blaming pollies is too easy. They're elected, and we elect them. If we wanted to make city-shaping issues into electoral ones, we could. We only have to be sceptical when they talk about conflict between the environment and job creation, and wonder how many jobs we'll have when the air turns to soup and the water laps at our doorstep. We only have to put our votes where our mouths are. We only have to find courage, take the risk, want to - enough.

How could Sydney get it so wrong?

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