Stick Your Tunnel Up Your Funnel!: Trains Not Toll Roads
|Rod Quantock - MC extraordinaire|
On Thursday night irrepressible local comedian and community activist, Rod Quantock, brought the Trains Not Toll Roads public meeting to a close in his usual inimitable style. His rallying cry: 'Stick your tunnel up your funnel!' captured the passion of the large crowd, packed into Fitzroy's beautiful Town Hall.
|Standing Room Only|
This was by no means the first time many of the participants had fought to resist freeway extension and road tunnelling and to redirect spending to public transport. I was thrilled to see a beloved 'blast from the past' group, Melbourne's famous 'connies'. And to witness one of them bailing up passers-by, as they did so often in times past, to argue for ticket sellers aboard trams as fundamental to attracting more commuters.
|Raffish Melbourne connie|
Paul Mees, an early mainstay of the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA), and someone who has tirelessly fought the good fight, spoke via video link from his sick bed to the delight of the assembled crowd. I am thrilled to have been able to make a personal contribution to this wonderful group's campaign, by providing one of my pictures (below) for their new flyer, that was launched on the night.
|Train flying above morning peak hour gridlock on Eastern Freeway|
A most inspiring guest speaker at the meeting was Alannah MacTiernan, the former Minister of Planning and Infrastructure (2001-8) for Western Australian. Alannah's championing of public transport in her home state resulted in the building of a 70-kilometre rail line that has totally transformed the way people travel to and from work. She had to brave powerful opposition, yet said that nowadays the prioritising of public transport is fundamental to ensuring electoral success in W.A.
|Alannah MacTiernan - 'You can do it!'|
Alannah made the point that enthusiasm for trains needs to become a mainstream concern; it can't just be a 'inner-city elite's' preoccupation. In view of that comment, it was heartening to see that there were many people from other parts of the city at the meeting. Alannah also pointed out that the actual scale of the changes required are more modest here in Melbourne that they were in W.A. So she is confident about our prospects.
This optimistic stance was echoed by many other contributors. And the excellent point was made that rather than getting mired down in debates about that no-brainer - the negative impacts of the proposed freeway extensions - a much more effective strategy is to keep the focus on the benefits of train travel.
|Adam Bandt, our very own Australian Greens Federal Minister|
I was most impressed that Adam Bandt stood in line, amongst community members, to have his say. When his turn came round, he made the point that the freeway extension is by no means a done deal. The government is certainly talking it up, but so far hasn't spent a cent. (You would have to think that that other huge white elephant - the delsal plant, languishing abandoned in Wonthaggi - must occasionally trouble State politicians' dreams. Surely it must make them wonder about the wisdom of committing massive amounts of public funding to an enterprise that, as oil prices rocket, will inevitably go the same way.)
I was also impressed by the tremendous level of support from local councils. Our mayor, Jackie Fritasky, a long-term supporter of spending on public transport, spoke eloquently. In fact the meeting was a Who's Who of progressive thinkers and pollies. I spotted Greg Barber, Australia's first Greens mayor (right here in Yarra) and now on the Victorian Legislative Council. There was also Mayor Jennifer Yang of Manningham, &&&
On a good day, I can't believe that when some countries are toying with the idea of putting a warning sign on petrol pumps that oil is about to run out, that common sense won't prevail. Especially now that the State Government has such a clear directive about exactly what to do with their tunnel.
Next week His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be in town. I will be there, and will tell you all about it in my next.