The Human Chain for Assange was attended by more people than we have seen at any Free Assange demonstration in Australia to date. SBS says, "Thousands," Victoria Police estimate 3000.
This clear and passionate speech goes to the heart of why it is so vital that we all - especially PM Albanese - stand up for Julian Assange. If we want to be free, we need to free Assange. Lorine (or Anita) is the effective convenor of the Friday Night Flinders St Station Vigil for Julian Assange. She has been doing this for years now, in all weather, and has built up a regular crew of speakers and poster-bearers. She is a real Australian hero.
At a protest for Julian Assange, which commenced outside the Victorian State Library at 12:00pm on Sunday 28 September, protestors demanded that the Australian government use the power vested in it as a sovereign national government to make British Prime Minister Liz Truss end the illegal imprisonment and torture of Julian Assange.
Update 10 September: OfficeWorks no longer prints on the back side of an A4 sheet!? In just over a fortnight from today, at 12:00pm on Sunday 18 September, outside the Victorian State Library, 328 Swanston Street Melbourne, ther
From 12:30pm today at the Hiroshima Day protest in front of the Victorian State Library in Flinders Street in the Melbourne CBD, John Shipton, Julian Assange's father, will be speaking.
Meet at Vic State Library for 11am rally and march 3 July 2022, Julian Assange's birthday. Australia's award winning journalist, outstanding publisher, creator of WikiLeaks, and possibly the most famous, heroic, and persecuted person in the world, turns 51 years old. This is his 4th birthday spent locked away in Belmarsh prison, London. His previous 7 birthdays were spent locked away in the Ecuadorian Embassy.
The tickets had been cancelled twice in the last 2 years, but finally it was going ahead. In the weeks leading up to the performance, I was many times on the brink of cancelling, as I had to weigh up the possibility of catching Covid 19 and, at best, recovering but being in isolation for a week as a result.
In the end, inertia took over, and I went with the flow, out to dinner, and then to the show.
In this issue: Friends of Queen Victoria Market Annual General Meeting; Tree Canopy Cover Forum (Mordialloc); Tree Canopy Cover Whitehorse; Tree Canopy Cover Darebin; VCAT win to protect native grassland; Heritage win at Moonlight Head; Concrete to be removed from Moonee Ponds Creek; Surrey Hills-Mont Albert level crossing removal project; Save Lake Knox update; Beaumaris Modern update; Preserving Mornington Peninsula Open Space; Caulfield Racecourse Update; North East Link
Report on the Heritage Protection Forum; Where to from here; Federal Elections; Australian Heritage Advocacy Alliance 2022 Campaign; Save Lake Knox; Brunswick - good and bad news; Submissions open for Melbourne Observatory Lighting Works; Wattle Park Update; Kilmore Land update; Queen Victoria Market update; Mt Eliza Village entry way; Elsternwick Structure Plan; Glenlyon; Hawthorn Institute of Education to become apartments; Sprawling cities are over-running global biodiversity; The
Report headlines: Heritage Protection Forum planned; Federal Election; The Committee that ate Melbourne (The Melbourne Committee); Wattle Park Heritage Submissions sought; Curtin Hotel; Kilmore Land Deal; Crowag Green Notices; South East Water Reservoir, Mt Eliza; Heritage Victoria Permit Application for 2022 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show; Ivanhoe Developer goes direct to Planning Minister; Queen Victoria Market; Big End of Town Complaints Department; High-rise A
Submission to 2021 Heritage and Planning Protection Review
The Queen Victoria Market (QVM) is listed as a significant place on the State and National heritage listings. The Queen Victoria Market is of cultural significance for its ongoing role and continued popularity as a general and fresh meat and vegetable market, shopping and meeting place for Victorians and visitors alike.
Mary Drost's 90th birthday party took place on 13 October 2021, while Melbourne was still in Lockdown, but you could meet in the open air if you wore masks and were within 20km of your home. I was unable to attend because it was out of my 20km range.
Hi to you all, and particularly to those of you who I do not know. As you will have heard from Mary, I have agreed to take over as Convenor from Mary Drost OAM. In 2005 Mary established Planning Backlash as an umbrella organisation and coalition of community and resident action groups.
I knew it was my lucky day. Returning home from a walk this afternoon I removed the clutter of advertising material from my letter box. A rather subdued, tasteful card caught my eye as I shuffled through the assortment of catalogues and lost kitten notices. I noted the heading on a sage green coloured card - "Halcyon Close" - featuring a double storey, apparently newly built, modern styled townhouse complex. The verso showed the interior and outdoor living areas of one of these hallowed retreats, the living room suffused with light through floor- to -ceiling windows, onto neutral-coloured walls and soft furnishings, the outdoor living area dappled with sunlight, through a hint of greenery, on a neutral-tiled patio and beige outdoor furniture.
Oh, Halcyon days in the heart of Sorrey Hills, that could be mine for as little as $1.5 million!! I need never mow another lawn, never water another plant, or pull out another weed. I could close the door and temporarily forget "Halcyon," if, for some unexpected reason, I wanted to leave it for a short time.
At Halcyon Close I would feel as though I had died and gone to Heaven. Is this subdued green card in my letter box my ticket to eternal peace?
But oh, no, I can see complications at Halcyon Close! I think I will actually have to die to attain eternal peace after all.
Halcyon Close will have problems that are not evident from the controlled mood of the brochure. Alas, they have not mentioned the ceiling level windows that will be impossible to keep clean. There is no mention of the vexatious woman next door who complains about cooking odours, or the low frequency boom of the sound system in number 8, seeping through the poorly insulated walls. The details of the troublesome, high fee body corporate with its interminable meetings is not touched on. There is no hint of the cracks that will appear in the basement car park, putting the whole structure in jeopardy. The Saturday night hoons, doing donuts in the nearby cul de sac, do not feature, nor the planning permit for a nearby sixteen-storey apartment block, ready to cast an eternal shadow over Halcyon Close and its neighbours.
The cool headed accountant in me foresees that I might manage to salvage $200,000 from the transactions and fees, after selling house and garden to buy into "Halcyon's" tidy concrete time-saving confines. But this would soon be dissipated in lawyers fees, trying to get compensation for the structural nightmare in which I would now find myself!
In present day Melbourne, "Halcyon" is only an illusion.
A piece of clever advertising was placed in my letter box, transporting me to Heaven .... but only for five minutes.
It's interesting how so many sentences and ideas now trail off into the inevitable denouement "… but that didn't happen because of Covid"…"We had to change plans because of Covid." It's as though Sir Humphrey Covid is some VIP, for whom doors must be opened and the seas must part. Or, as though Covid is an unexpected first born baby to a couple in their 40s whose lives are now utterly transformed. "We couldn't celebrate Henry's birthday this year because of … Baby Covid." "Covid" could be anything or anyone terribly important - one's mother in law arriving from Europe or a visitation from a long dead relative. All must stop … for Covid!
One of my friends refuses to name this interloper, usually spoken of with such reverence. This seems an excellent way of handling the situation!
Sir Humphrey is noted more for what he prevents, rather than what he facilitates or mandates. Think of the thousands of people who have not attended football matches they otherwise would have flocked to, and further ,who have not caught planes, boarded cruise ships for exotic ports, nor played bingo in the ornate lounges of the oversized ships. Think of all the three-course breakfasts that have not been eaten in the multitudinous choice of ship and hotel dining rooms all over the world! Sir Humphrey has put a decisive stop to these hedonistic activities.
Millions of people have not attended work for months, because of one entity, already named and and derisively "knighted."
All these aforementioned effects are from the point of view of us "ordinary people." It is our friends and relatives plans that have given way to COVID-19. But what about if we look further out to decisions beyond our sphere of influence ? It seems that "Sir Humphrey" has affected activities on a much greater scale.
Even chronic wage depression, and endemic high rates of unemployment, will stop. These, associated with globalised out-sourcing, must stop for Covid. These, which blew out further after the Kennet-led destruction of state awards and John Howard’s new use of the Corporation clause in the Constitution, with a new stream of cheap immigrant labour (see above) - must stop for Covid. So we are now looking at the first increases in employment rates and wages prospects, for decades.
It has been hard, according to Australian farmers, to find fruit-pickers, since the highly exploitable backpacker stream dried up with Sir Humphrey Covid. See [Fruit Picking Jobs Australia]. However, Australians complain that they are often rejected when they apply to work. In fact a lot of Australians are working in the industry, now the farmers don’t have a choice to exploit disoriented young migrants. See, ”Thousands of unemployed Australians do go for fruit-picking”. Of course, if there are not enough Australians to pick the fruit for low wages, the fruit growers could get together and raise their prices. For this to be viable, Australia would have to stop importing fruit from countries with endemic slave labour, and Australians would have to buy fruit by the piece, rather than in large quantities that often are not eaten and go bad in the bowl. Low carb dieters and Dr Lustig (see, for instance, “Fat Chance Fructose 2.0: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3WkXJokBAU), would all say that we have been encouraged to eat far too much fruit and fructose-laden processed foods, so raising the price of fruit would be all to the good.
Yes, Sir Humphrey, but ...
You would think that governments would be quaking in their boots as their personal and party investments in real-estate threatened to take a dive and the property developer-industry mafias and triads would start cruising with kalachnikovs past politicians’ private residences late at night. But this has not happened – because the governments control the remaining levers that regulate land and housing prices and they ARE the mafia. [See, for instance, Labor Inc.]
Yes, with the sudden drop in mass migration, both temporary, landed, and permanent, many expected a huge drop in land and housing prices. However, this did not happen, due to the Federal government outrageously permitting people to cash-in on their superannuation, and the Reserve bank dropping borrowing interest rates. This created even more buyers than usual. The pressure on supply led to higher prices. The pressure has extended to the regions, raising both purchase and rental prices in places where the homeless have traditionally fled in search of affordable rentals.
Instead of a famine, it’s been a feast for the land-speculators, and misery has compounded for the homeless and precarious. If Jimmy Dore is right (see also, below), this will form part of a cycle: as a proportion of people default on their mortgages, with the next financial crash or when the Reserve Bank raises interest rates again, the banks will just put them on the market again, and again, and again.
With Australia’s borders closed indefinitely, however, outsourced-state land-companies and their colleagues in private development, fear that persistent lack of mass migration will ultimately outlast the super-cash-and-low-interest-loans-bonanza-in-demand. Then, they fear, land and housing prices will finally fall to reasonable levels, far too low for the growth lobby’s addiction to the high prices.
They have a strategy though. As readers of /node/2363 know, the growth lobby in government and corporate form has been trying to liberate big houses on big lots from the tenacious claws of undeserving old ladies, who rattle about so wastefully within them, unreasonably refusing to die and make way for more deserving younger age-cohorts. For this purpose the Liberal (Turnbull) government initiated a ‘downsizing tax-break” from July 2018, whereby if you are 65 years old or older and meet the eligibility requirements, you may be able to make a downsizer contribution into your superannuation of up to $300,000 from the proceeds of selling your home. (They don’t check the size of your new home.)
And, of course, there is another string to this house-liberation strategy, involving nursing-homes, whereby you sacrifice your home towards the cost of your ‘care’ in a nursing home. Over 65s are not real welcome in ordinary hospitals these days, and tend to finish up in nursing homes when anything goes wrong, overfilling them. Thankfully, COVID-19 has helped liberate nursing homes as well as houses, but apparently this may not be enough.
Which brings us to the ultimate strategy – or should I say - ‘final solution’? The AstraZenica vaccine. Introduced with a friendly face, initially, AstraZenica has acquired a spectral character, not unlike those Grim Reapers of the 1980s AIDS safe-sex ads. It has gradually been withdrawn from use by younger cohorts, until now, only those usually considered ‘too old to work’ - the ones who are imagined to rattle alone in rambling residences in leafy suburbs – qualify for AstraZenica, and only for AstraZenica. We are told that the average odds of their dying from the ‘rare blood clotting disorder’ linked to the AstraZenica vaccine are lower than the average odds of their dying of COVID-19 – if they get it. And they are damned if they do take the vaccine and damned if they don’t, because one or the other may still get them.
Are the risks of enough elderly thus liberating large lots in leafy suburbs for subdivision statistically high enough to compensate for low migration for a few years? It is difficult to estimate exactly, but every little bit helps, Sir Humphrey.
The United States government PLANNED for mortgagees to lose their homes from the 2009 financial crash?
In this Youtube broadcast of 23 March, Jimmy Dore gives his interpretation of how United States' Democrats planned to cause ordinary Americans to lose their houses as a consequence of the 2009 financial crisis! Incredibly, they seem to have colluded with Wall Street creditors to enable them to be able to seize mortgaged homes when mortgagees found themselves unable to make repayments.
Apologies for this very short notice.
At 1:30pm today, 1 May 2021, the International Workers' Day, the day on which Trade Unionists commemorate the struggle and sacrifices by trade unionists to achieve dignity and decent living standards for themselves and their families, supporters of Australian journalist and founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange will be marching as a contingent, behind Melbourne for Wikileaks' (@Melbourne4Wiki)'s large banner, pictured further below.
Julian Assange has committed no crime and has already served his outrageous 50 week sentence for the supposed misdemeanour of skipping bail back in 2012 when he sought political asylum at the London Ecuadorian embassy. Yet, two years after his imprisonment, he still remains behind bars in solitary confinement for 23 hours per day, as United States prosecutors pursue their appeal of Magistrate Vanessa Barraitser's ruling against the extradition of Julian Assange.
Were Julian Assange, who is not even an American citizen, to be extradited, he would face a rigged trial, before a jury of employees of U.S. intelligence services or their spouses, for supposedly violating the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917. Such a jury is expected to pay little heed to the arguments of Julian Assange's defence team before sentencing him to 175 years more imprisonment in solitary confinement - all for revealing to the world, facts about U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.
Please join us at 1:30pm, outside the Melbourne Trades Hall at the corner of Lygon Street and Victoria Street, South Carlton, to support Julian Assange. Please help us hold up that banner and distribute our leaflets. (A PDF file of a double-sided A5 leaflet, which has been adapted to become the article Uphold the Rule of Law - demand that the Australian government act to end the illegal imprisonment and torture of Julian Assange (11/2/2021) can be downloaded from here.
Where: Melbourne, Trades Hall, corner of Lygon Street and Victoria Street, South Carlton.
When: Today (Saturday, 1 May), 1:30pm
From 6:30PM on Good Friday, last Friday 2 April 2021, Anita Brice, myself and other Melbourne supporters of Julian Assange held their weekly vigil in front of Flinders Street Station. This vigil is the central part of Anita Brice's (see Lorine Anita Brice's Twitter page @LorineBrice) campaign for Julian Assange which she has organised since April 2020.
Each Friday since then they have turned up with placards and printed literature to inform members of the public about Julian Assange.
Since February this year, when I finally learned of this desperately needed support work for Julian Assange in Melbourne, I began attending the vigils myself with my own additional flyers to give to interested members of the public. One flyer has been adapted to become the article Uphold the Rule of Law - demand that the Australian government act to end the illegal imprisonment and torture of Julian Assange (11/2/2019) . My second flyer was, instead, in reverse, adapted from another article, Open Letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison: Act now to end the illegal imprisonment and torture of Julian Assange! (11/3/2021) .
Also, at considerable trouble and expense, I created a large (4.8mx1.7m) banner which is pictured to the left.  This banner has attracted some interest from overseas supporters of Julian Assange, including from the Denver Free Assange group as well as from many members of the Melbourne public including passing motorists. 
At our vigil of 19 February, I made a speech through a megaphone to the public. This succeeded in arousing greater interest from members of the public and considerably raising the the profile of our vigil. 
Other members of our group have also begun to give speeches, and have spoken well, as occurred on Friday 26 March when we marched to the Melbourne British to protest against that government's criminal treatment of Julian Assange.
At our Good Friday vigil, I spoke for 6:30 minutes. My speech was recorded and embedded below.
James Sinnamon demands the Australian government act to end the illegal imprisonment of Julian Assange
Your presence needed at next Friday's vigil for Julian Assange
If we are ever to succeed in our campaign to free Julian Assange, we need much larger crowds, here in Melbourne, other Australian cities and overseas. If you can make it to next Friday's vigil at 6:30pm, please be there. You can help us hold up our large banners, distribute leaflets, talk to passsers-by or make speeches.
 The PDF file for the double-sided A5 flyer is here.
 The PDF file which can be printed on two sides of an A4 sheet, is here, please be warned, printing in colour, rather than in back and white can cost a lot more.
 From an artist friend, Sheila Newman, who is also an editor of this site, candobetter.net, and an author of books as well as articles for this site, I received indispensable help in creating this banner.
 Unfortunately, because our numbers were fewer on the Good Friday public holiday, there was not a sufficient number people to put in the necessary effort hold up our large banner for the two hour vigil.
 Even on some subsequent occasions when my own presentation and delivery was not as good, I believe I still succeeded in arousing more interest and support from members of the public than we would have, had nobody spoken. I would like to aspire to speak as well as Mairéad Farrell, Irish member of the European Parliament as shown, below, in her speech of 5 March 2021:
Myself and @chrisandrews64 raised #JulianAssange continued detention with Leo Varadkar in the Dáil today.
I quoted @NUJofficial concerns and asked him to raise it directly with the British Ambassador & the US administration.@wikileaks #FreeJulianAssange pic.twitter.com/BKtr4Arp8a
CORRECTION (10:20am, Friday): The march will be to the British Consulate at 90 Collins Street Melbourne and not to the State Library. - apologies
Join us at 3:30pm Friday 26 March (today) at Flinders Street Station, from which Melbourne For Wikileaks (@Melbourne4wiki) will be marching at 4:00pm from Flinders Street Station to the British Consulate at 90 Collins Street, Melbourne. This March is to show our support of Julian Assange.
We will be demanding that the Australian government act to stop the United States' attempts to illegally extradite, from the United Kingdom, Julian Assange, who is an Australian citizen and not a United States citizen. We will also be demanding that he Australian government act to end the United Kingdom's illegal imprisonment and torture of Julian Assange.
Come to help us carry our banner (pictured), help us distribute leaflets to fellow Melburnians and, listen to speeches for Julian Assange at the end of the march in front of the British Consulate.
End the illegal detention and torture of this Australian hero.
Why won't the Australian government act to get Julian Assange out of the Belmarsh hellhole?
By its stated intention to imprison the visionary Australian journalist and publisher, Julian Assange, for 175 years, the United States government has confirmed the criminality and malevolance of those who are truly in charge of it. State officials, including Hillary Clinton, have also been recorded talking openly about assassinating Assange.
Because mainstream media now only reports what the US government tells it, the world needs the Wikileaks news service to reveal the truth behind the United States' and its allies' wars, over the last three decades and beyond. Wikileaks has protected the identities and the ability of people in the military, government spy agencies, government bureacracy, or private corporations, to get vital information out to all of us about repeated dangerous and criminal acts of states towards ordinary people.
The United States' deep state has been trying since 2010 to get its hands on Julian to punish him for revealing its war-crimes to the world, and for refusing to reveal his sources. The US wants firstly to prevent Julian Assange from resuming his own work for Wikileaks, and secondly, to set a precedent that would allow the US henceforth to kidnap any other journalist, whose reporting would reveal to us facts about other invasions of, and meddling in the affairs of countries throughout much of the world - in countries like Venezula, Cuba, Bolivia, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iran - that the US wants to keep hidden from us.
Julian Assange is not even an American. He is an Australian citizen. He has committed no crime - he has only been found guilty of the misdemeanour - skipping bail in 2012 to seek asylum in the London Ecuadorian embassy after the Swedish prosecutors had sought to extradite him for questioning over allegations of sexual assault by two Swedish women.
When the Swedish government refused to give Julian a guarantee that they would not allow the US to extradite him, he decided that the request for questioning could only be a ploy on behalf of the US. So, Julian skipped bail' and sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy. For thus acting to thwart US attempts to illegally kidnap him from Swedish soil 8 years ago, UK Judge Vanessa Barraitser sentenced Julian Assange to imprisonment alongside convicted terrorists and murderers in Belmarsh Prison for 50 weeks - the absolute maximum offence for the misdemeanour of skipping bail.
Even after Julian had served that outrageous sentence, Barraitser further extended his detention to allow more time for the US prosecutors to prepare their 'case' for extradition, which, after weeks of further kangaroo court proceedings, was denied to the US, whilst all the prosecution's smears against Julian were still upheld.
In spite of this unexpected ruling, Barraitser refused to release Julian. He is expected to spend many months in degrading conditions behind bars whilst various appeals by the US against her rulng are heard.
What you can do
- Attend the Melbourne for Wikileaks (@melbourne4wiki Twitter page) vigil for Julian Assange at Flinders St. Station every Friday at 6:30pm.
- Reprint this pdf file at /files/upholdTheRuleOfLawForJulian.pdf or linked to article on Julian Assange, Barraitser's 'compassion' towards Julian Assange a ploy to avoid judicial scrutiny of the United States' illegal war on journalism? (12/1/21)
- Seek the truth at candobetter.net/JulianAssange, rt.com, sputniknews.com, presstv.com, southfront.org and other alternatives to corporate newsmedia.
Update (Thursday 1/4/2021): Melbourne supporters of Julian Assange will be holding our weekly vigil tomorrow evening at Flinders Street Station from 6:30pm Good Friday, this Friday 2 April. For more information see @LorineBrice
Melbourne supporters will be holding their weekly vigil for Julian Assange this Friday at 6:30pm outside Flinders Street Station. It is vital for every Australian, who values free speech and opposes the unlawful detention and torture of Julian Assange by the U.K. government at the behest of its U.S. master, to demand that our government act now to free Julian Assange. For more information, see @LorineBrice, @Melbourne4Wiki.
Be there: 7:30pm, this Friday, at Flinders Street Railway Station. Listen to speeches and help us hand out leaflets.
Failure to act could well result in Julian's death, as Greek Australian activist, Yanis Varifoukis, explains in the video embedded below:
Larry Schlesinger, in the Financial Review (May 26, 2020) wrote a article entitled “Rental market rocked by insane student exodus.” It pertained to the “grave” concerns that a clique of high-profile property developers in Melbourne have with the cessation of massive international student migration, due to COVID 19. Property sector denizens mentioned in it were, third on the Fin Review’s “Young Rich List”, Tim Gurner; Caroline Viney, previously of Grocon, currently the chief development officer of Vicinity Centres; and Shane Quinn, a partner with the commercial property group, Quintessential Equity. The Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sally Capp, who was until recently the Victorian Executive Direct for the Property Council of Australia, added her angst.
Tim Gurner apparently described the treatment of foreign students as, “The most insane thing,” he had ever seen in his career.
The article reports that:
“An exodus of students drove a tripling of residential vacancy rates in the inner city of Melbourne in April.”
Tim Gurner is quoted, saying,
“The rental market has taken a massive hit. It’s my biggest concern.”
We are also informed that these circumstances have led to rents falling between 10 to 30 per cent which, if sustained, would affect residential values.
Gurner related that his firm just completed a building with 140 apartments with 100 of them in the letting pool.
“We normally lease them all in two hours with one inspection. Tragically we’ve leased only half of them in six weeks. Clearly, that is a gross disparity.”
The Lord Mayor of Melbourne then gets a run, saying,
“The city is the place where people come together. Our economy is based upon the city being a meeting and gathering place.”
Such partisans of ‘growth’ have cooperated over the past decade, but particularly so since 2014, with making the international student sector a prime aspect of Victoria’s economy. The foreign student population has ballooned in the CBD of Melbourne, in recent years, as part of the supposed $40 billion bonanza to Australia’s economy.
Quite simply, these increasing numbers of international students, flooding into the CBD over the past few years, haven’t, as some like to imagine, created a cultural and material nirvana. Foreign students and Australians have all suffered from the resulting rise in rents and associated costs. And now COVID-19 has placed students in shocking situations, without employment, not qualifying for welfare payments, and often unable to return home to their families.
Maybe the property development sector should give them all free accommodation, since it has been the primary driver and beneficiary of the situation that led to this disaster.
The covert cooperation of politicians and property developers has culminated in a mass migration program that has enriched a small group of focused beneficiaries, but, in the process, has caused the world’s highest property and rental prices, with utilities, energy, and education, following suit. These skyrocketing basic costs affect employees and employers, reducing profit margins and placing pressure on salaries, whilst enriching corporate mortgage-lenders. Furthermore, this situation has made COVID-19 so much more costly than it ever needed to be. Government has had to provide income support to cover extortionate property prices, often costing the taxpayer-funded welfare sector more in rental support than in income payments, ironically whilst compensating the property industry that caused the problem in the first place.
It would be fitting if the property development sector were required to give free accommodation to Australia's homeless and unemployed.
Developer desire to profit, combined with population pressure, has also compromised planning laws and courts, permitting high rise slum prototypes in the urban areas, and mean little lots in new rural slums, as people accept ever lower standards of accommodation.
So, predictably, we have Tim Gurner, Caroline Viney, Shane Quinn, and Sally Capp, along with the collective of property groups (like the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce and the Australian Business Council), vigorously attempting to re-establish affairs as they were, prior to COVID 19 undermining their game. They want the rental demand in the CBD of Melbourne once more from foreign students; who will occupy the real estate that they control.
How in the world did Victoria end up with being dependent upon selling education and renting property to foreigners as its most important revenue source?
Why have all of the State governments colluded with the Federal government to implement this agenda to make educating foreigners, not just Victoria’s largest export industry, but the country’s too?
The international student sector is touted as a great economic boon for Australia, when, in reality, it has put Australians in competition with high-fee-paying foreign students, for higher education - a precious national resource, with limited capacity. The crass monetisation of this sector has depressed academic standards in order to lower the admission bar, and more and more of us, foreign and locally-born, are becoming slum-dwellers. How much lower can the property sector drag us?
*This article was developed around an edited comment from "Mary" - who did not leave her contact details, so we could not get in touch with her. We now know her as Mary Defoe.
In Melbourne last Saturday nine public housing towers with 3,000 residents were shut down for at least five days, due to a large cluster of identified cases of COVID-19 within their walls. Since then, of course, the whole of Melbourne has been locked down for about six weeks. And this is a Melbourne burgeoning with high-rises. It seems a lifetime ago, but it is only about five months since the cruise ship, Diamond Princess, with identified cases of COVID-19 was unable to disembark in Yokohama, Japan. Her hapless passengers were confined to their cabins, in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus aboard the ship and on land. Predictably however, the virus spread through the ship and by early March there were six casualties.
Those of us who see the downside of "storing" people in high-rise buildings and advocate against this trend in Australia, immediately saw high rise towers as vertical cruise ships. This obvious comparison has become a widespread notion, and many of us are trembling observers of this latest selective lock-down of the towers in North Melbourne and Flemington.
It is difficult to conceive of what the Victorian Government could have done differently in the situation and constructive criticism is equally difficult.
It is, however, easy to criticise the rapid trend towards increasing living density, both in Australian cities, and in most of the world. Beginning with the extreme: high rise, such as the public housing tower blocks, which have been there for many decades, but are being replicated in form all over our cities - this is not a sustainable way of living for humans. It is suitable for a few nights in a hotel when visiting a large capital city, but as a long term arrangement it is anathema to what most humans need. People may choose to live in an apartment out of economic necessity. In some cases, apartment-living may be seen as convenient and labour efficient for the resident, not requiring maintenance of gardens and fences, for instance. It is also secure for those who travel a lot. These reasons make sense for the solo person making his/her way, in a globalised business world, for example, but for those less peripatetic in their work habits, the advantages over a house and garden are dubious.
The COVID-19 crisis has, over the last few months,brought the problems of apartment-living into sharp focus, particularly with this latest lock-down.
COVID-19 has thrown us all back on our own resources in 2020, and those with more resources have suffered less. People who have gardens are in a better position than those who do not, because they can be outside, yet remain safe from infection by others. At present, people in Victoria, including people in apartments, cannot easily travel outside that state. Many of us are yearning to exchange winter in Melbourne for two weeks near the beach in Queensland, or even the milder climate of southern New South Wales, options that were so available to us before the current health crisis. But these are minor frustrations compared with the constraints under which the residents of the public housing towers are being held right now.
For years, some of us have seen the undesirability of normalising high-rise living in Australia's large cities, and we noted the helplessness of people in towers in the face of dangers like flammable cladding, or major plumbing issues that required evacuation. This is not to say that a house cannot catch fire or flood due to a plumbing problem, but the impacts of such crises are massively multiplied in towers with hundreds of residents, where the effects of being locked in or out are very serious. Residents in towers are at the mercy of the buildings' private or government owners. The high rise arrangement may be workable when all the complex functions of a large city are operational, but this cannot be guaranteed.
Population growth, engineered by governments and planners, is hypocritically given by them as an excuse for the transition in Australia's capital cities, especially Melbourne and Sydney, to ever increasing density. Increased population within a given area does not serve us well. It advantages those who make money from high volume sales - from the sandwich bar near a block of offices, with an imperative to meet its high rent, to those who own our toll roads and transport systems. Surely, we, as a society, have to admit defeat with respect to the notion of ongoing high volume being the commercial panacea for all transactions? We cannot "socially distance" in a crowded restaurant, in a capacity crowd at a football stadium, cinema, orchestral concert, ballet or theatre. Fortunately for the toll road owners, heavy traffic is not an immediate COVID-19 health risk, but if our roads are the only place we can now gather then one might hesitate to call the resulting human accumulation in cities any sort of society.
The problems encountered in tower blocks in recent years are the indicators that we have hit the wall with respect to density of human habitation. We have had several warnings with the current one being loud and clear. Wrong way! Go back, or at least go in a different direction!
It's not an easy life described within the covers of Donna Ward's semi-autobiography, She I dare not name: A spinster’s meditations on life, Allen and Unwin, NSW, 2020. In a vocabulary measured with precision but rich with imagery, Ward evaluates her experiences as an unmarried woman who achieved this status without wanting it at all. The book is very honest in its descriptions of how this came about and the importance that it has in defining the course of Donna’s life. The term "spinster," is initially called up like some daemonic creature. It is something she almost dare not name! As we read on, we realise that spinsters are not gothic inventions, but human like their married counterparts, probably equally defined by hazard.
It seems to be a case of pot luck that brought Donna to the point of which she writes, in a book finished in her sixty-seventh year.
Donna describes early years rich in experience of nature and travel, warm relationships with larger-than-life parents, and the birth of a young sister in her early childhood. This was however an event notified by her father, only one day prior, with something like sexual shame.
“He said this as if he barely understood anything about it , as if it was something Camille and Mum had cooked up between themselves that very day , something so shameful he’d had to fly all the way home to sort it out, though I didn’t think he was doing a good job of it.”
Mostly, however, her account of her childhood reads almost like a comforting and exciting slide show with non-sequential images and vignettes, depicting mostly carefree recollections. One senses though, that Donna’s parents are involved with each other more than they are with Donna, and that their relationship with her has conditions attached. In primary school, Donna experiences a “desperate relationship with spelling and arithmetic,” to the extent that she is sent to a psychiatrist. No-one can determine whether she is “brilliant or dumb.” Her mother cannot hide her shame from Donna. By the time Donna is ten, though, she is a good student.
It's in adulthood that the going gets really tough. Donna also indicates that she has a very poor relationship with her sister. Where she might have expected to benefit socially in many ways, from an introduction into her parents' well-connected circle in WA mining world, instead, having chosen to do social-work, she is marked as an outsider.
Ward moves from Perth, Western Australia, to Melbourne, Victoria, as a young woman, and predictably has to make her own way in the big city. She shares houses but mostly lives alone. She goes to university and gains her degree. She lands her ‘dream job’ but loses it to a male in the ‘recession we had to have’, as it was termed by the then Federal Treasurer Paul Keating, in 1990.
This job-loss was probably a defining point in Donna’s personal development. Where professional status might have compensated an early lack of unconditional love and brought her earning capacity and social rank up to something recognisable to her former peers, her job-loss plunges her into indeterminate socio-economic status. In parallel with other isolated social and economic victims of economic rationalism, she must individually craft a new survival path. She achieves this with difficulty, an exotic traveller in the new age, finally emerging as a neo-classical philosopher on non-marriage.
Descriptions of her social encounters give the reader a sense of her tumbling around in a sea of strangers interspersed with special friends and lovers poetically anonymised for publication as archetypes or as characters in Ancient Greek tales. Our heroine or protagonist does her best with what she encounters. The life she grapples with is one that has no markers or guideposts and she feels herself to be at the mercy of the preferences of the males she becomes involved with, or the narrative they see for their lives, with respect to other female players. Then again, it was she who decided not to go through with marriage to a Japanese fiancé. In her chapter, ‘The Weight of a child’, we glimpse another of life’s cul-de-sacs as she briefly recollects terminating a pregnancy that resulted from rape.
“I could not have that child, the conception had been so rude. The way his father pushed me onto the couch, held me at the throat, tore my panties and took his revenge, took what I had denied him years before. […] In the autumn of 1977, when the jacarandas were yellowing and the plum trees sapping their leaves, I let that child go, lest I be tied to his father for the rest of my life. I believed another child would come along. (Ward, Donna. She I Dare Not Name: A spinster's meditations on life (pp. 248-249.)
No-one seems to be looking out for Donna, our heroine. She just has to take it on the chin. Is this a failing of her character or is it due to the milieu and time she finds herself in? We found her a very likeable character. In many ways we were reminded of our own photogenic childhoods with happy pictorial vignettes bathed in yellow light, freedom, and cosiness, along with similar struggles in adulthood.
This narrative raises the question: How does a young woman in a big city, away from her parents and her natal community, find love, or find that suitable person with whom to form a family? It is clear from Ward's writing that that her drive to ‘nest’, to be part of a couple (duo), and to have a child, is very strong. It seems both hormonal and social. She wants to be part of the world of couples, to alleviate loneliness, to find security, and to change her status. In the face of disappointment, she soldiers on courageously, but her essentially solitary situation – despite friends and jobs - makes her vulnerable to predatory or incompetent approaches.
She mentions serial recoveries from the emotional hurt of broken relationships. Is life really meant to be so hurtful and stressful? Many women and men would relate to the bruising nature of the relationship-seeking process in the 20th and 21st century urban social environment.
The author describes her experiences, starting in the 1970s until the present. Dating is one way we do this in the West. Both parties do a series of interviews over dinner and this process can go on for years. There are more casual opportunities in which to evaluate potential partners, such as clubs with shared activities, like tennis, bushwalking, or Meetups; churches, political groups, universities, and work. A friend of mine met her life-partner and husband through an ad in a ‘singles magazine’ in the 1980s. These days she might have found him via internet dating services.
The quest for a mate is not a level playing field between men and women if they want children, as the woman is almost invariably up against time constraints. These constraints become increasingly urgent as she moves from her twenties to her thirties. A woman has a brief period in her life from about age sixteen to twenty-five, when she is most sought after by men her own age as well as those considerably older. In terms of sexual attractiveness, she has the odds in her favour then, more than she will have at any time in the future.
If she misses this opportunity to light on the ideal partner, or at least a suitable one, she has her work cut out. It will dawn on her gradually, as she approaches thirty, that really there is not much time and there is a decreasing number of men to choose from.
The finishing post in this ‘race’ is usually considered to be forty, after which a woman will not necessarily expect to ever conceive. If she wants to and she does, it will be a bonus in any permanent partnership she manages to secure.
The woman is, as was Donna Ward, expected, under this pressure, to make a wise assessment of the men who cross her path, to get to know them better than superficially, and to try not to get hurt. Whether she will have descendants depends on how she negotiates this situation. Adding to the difficulty of the task, in her most propitious years, she is necessarily young and inexperienced.
How could our society better provide a benign environment for young marriageable people to meet in relative safety? Should mothers give guidelines to their daughters as to how to as to how to negotiate the situations they will face? Did most mothers also have to just find their way through the minefield? Did they think, "Well I had to do it, and my daughter now faces the same challenge!"
Do most of us leave this all-important decision to complete chance? The writers' parent’s generation, reaching adulthood in the 1940s, were more connected, and their parents more so. They did not often travel far or without introductions. They grew up in more predictable communities with pathways to identifiable milestones (rites of passage) and traditions, and relatives and connections, for negotiating these. At the same time, in the Anglosphere and Europe, in the 1950s and 60s, a burgeoning manufacturing industry meant plentiful jobs. An explosion in energy resources and transport allowed people to commute by car to work, from affordable housing in new estates on land once out of reach. That meant more people could move out of home, get a job, and get married. It was called the Baby Boom. Unfortunately, the explosion just kept magnifying and accelerating globally until mass transport and travel broke time-worn connections, dispersing people, at ever increasing speed to the four winds, far away from the familiar pathways, milestones and traditions.
Thus, our heroine dispersed like a dandelion seed and landed in Melbourne, apparently without any significant connections, in a city with diminishing social capital.
Did most women of her generation negotiate the getting hitched and having children part successfully - if not forever or until ‘death us do part’ - at least for long enough to have a child or two? Why did some, like our heroine miss out, or was the experience more common than we may think? Good luck finding statistics on how many women die without having children. As you can see from the graph, the unmarried proportion of the population has been steadily increasing since the 1970s oil-shock.
Maybe those who did not partner for long enough to have at least one child lacked the connections to find a suitable partner. This seems to be the case with Ms Ward. Many of her encounters with men seem accidental, lacking formal introduction or context, and so she lacks essential information. In assuming reciprocally honest interactions, she is fooled, more than once, by men who are thus easily able to conceal the fact that they are already partnered. Positive tit-for-tat, where good deeds and bad deeds are quickly reciprocated is only possible in viscous societies, where people stay close to where they originate from. Melbourne’s population is close to thirty-five per cent diaspora. Another way of saying this is that people can get away with breaking trust in an anonymous or constantly changing population, unless they belong to a stable enclave within it. Donna didn’t.
A major part of Ms Ward's serial emotional recoveries from serial romantic disappointments come from the blow to her self-esteem, because she mistakenly believes that there must be some flaw in herself, invisible to her, but which these men can see.
A more informed perspective might explain, however, that Ms Ward is a stranger trying to make her way in foreign territory, where her pedigree is unknown, where she has little or no personal status. She does not read the signs accurately or speak the local social language fluently. She is proceeding using signs she learned in West Australia for a small network there, which has probably gone extinct. She did not avail herself of that network when she was in West Australia because she had different values from her parents. This was because she came from a different generation at a time when values were changing rapidly. In her case, Aboriginal rights and Germaine Greer were (by her account) two contemporary changes that obviously influenced her and helped to separate her from her origins. The first affected her relationship with her mining father, and the second affected her relationship with men more generally.
Apparently, she did not want to be part of the money and status oriented, environmentally exploitative, mining crowd her parents belonged to. So, she migrated from West Australia to Sydney, then Melbourne. She acquired some social credentials and connections from universities there, but they were not enough to establish her as a local candidate for the kind of marriage she wanted. She found a good job, but the 2008 recession removed that job, so what were her prospects? We don't know. Having a house is certainly a plus, if you want to attract a mate, but, although she seems to have a house, we do not know how big her mortgage is. She would have needed to be careful not to marry someone with lesser prospects, for fear of being impoverished by divorce, and that would rule out a large and growing demographic.
Ms Ward seems to assume that marriage must have its basis in love. Most people want to marry up and for love, and most who marry say they did marry for love, but how many really do? Is the number of divorces an indication?
Since Ms Ward seemed to have limited opportunities, for one reason or another, perhaps she could have ranked her priorities differently. Reading closely, her real priorities might have been marital status, children, and companionship. Unfortunately, she seemed to put love up at the top. Love is a western ideal but, unless you are very lucky, that is a musical chair game that leaves many more standing than seated, and childless if they persist as the stakes go up. It might be better to look for respect and kindness. Love might come later, and, if it doesn't, affairs within marriage are the tried and true solution.
It is easier to understand the problem of partnership in the west, if you imagine that you are arranging a marriage for someone in 19th century England or in 20th century India, where your parents work out early where you are situated with regard to income expectations and earning, education, charm, and physical attributes. Although your parents might use marriage brokers, it is still likely that they will employ those brokers to find someone within their circle, or at least within a similar circle. When they find a candidate, each set of parents checks the other out for compatibility. After that they decide whether or not to let the children meet.
Given that parents do not generally perform this role as explicitly in contemporary Western society, many young women have to fend for themselves. Perhaps a way women (and men) could try to look after their own interests better could be by cultivating a perspective as if they were their own in loco parentis. Such a perspective would indicate a major change in the concept of marriage in Australia.
The draft Yarra Strategic Plan claims to deliver the first Victorian integrated river corridor strategy and to identify immediate actions for the river corridor, enabling long-term collaborative management between agencies and Traditional Owners. It is intended to guide local planning. We publish here a critical submission to this draft plan. Summary of submission by candobetter editor: Climate Change and human failure to interact safely with the natural world. Plan fails to adequately factor in transport interaction with Yarra. Lack of proper transport interconnectivity. Higher density depends on high quality public transport. Private car still dominates. Forecast population growth and new constructions will inevitably cause major environmental damage. North-East Link Freeway will comport massive land-fill problems, hardly referred to in Draft Plan. Likely potential for destabilisation of groundwater in the Yarra Valley in the Bulleen and Rosanna area as a consequence of the North-East Link Freeway project. Substantial areas of public open space is threatened by the project, together with about 25,000 mature canopy trees. Adverse human health effects of the project would include increased air pollution and heightened road noise. Lack of cycling provision on roads in cities of Boroondara, Banyule, Manningham and Maroondah and the Shires of Nillumbik and Yarra Ranges. Proposal in Plan to increase lanes capacity on the Eastern Freeway to cater for the North East Link project by over 40%, from 802,000 square metres to 1,127,000 square metres. Adverse environmental effects would include increased run-off of polluted stormwater into the Yarra River and elevated ambient temperatures as a consequence of the large increase in concrete and asphalt surfaces. Report of the Commissioner of Sustainability, State of the Yarra and its Parklands (2018), concluded that the status of the Yarra river was poor for 18 of its 25 environmental indicators. This can only deteriorate if planned stressors go ahead.
Submission on the Draft Yarra Strategic Plan
The draft Yarra Strategic Plan rightly identifies climate change as a threat to the Yarra River. In this regard, climate change is neither more or less than a register of the failure of the human species to interact properly with the natural world. COVID - 19 also falls into that category.
Transport and the Yarra
The draft Plan gives too little attention to the relationship between transport and the health of the Yarra. This is a major flaw. The functionality of large cities is decided more than anything else by the dominant modes of mobility deployed in them.
The draft Plan declares (p. 16) that the Department of Transport "plans, builds and operates an integrated, sustainable and safe transport system across Victoria. It does not, actually, as little effort is made to integrate the various modes. Within the public transport sphere in particular, insufficient effort is made to ensure the connectivity of the network.
Even more importantly, the concept of integrated transport and land use planning has pretty much been abandoned by the Victorian government, and has done so since Melbourne 2030, with the concept of the poly-centric city at its core, was all but forgotten.
The idea (p. 12) that higher density residential development should be the sole province of inner areas is flawed. There is significant demand for higher density residential development in locations well removed from inner Melbourne. The central problem is that the government has abandoned the key enabler of this, which is high quality public transport across the whole of Melbourne.
The reality is that the modal mix for personal travel in the City of Melbourne is little different from what it was 50 years ago. The private motor car dominates. And it is very space-inefficient.
The draft Plan anticipates that Melbourne's population will grow to nearly 8 million by the year 2051, and with an extra 140,000 dwellings to be built in the Yarra River corridor by 2041.
There are no grounds, within current policy settings, that these "milestones" would be reached without damaging the environment very seriously. The central issue is that the Victorian government does not have a transport plan for Melbourne.
North East Link
The Victorian government's North East Link freeway project is hardly referred to in the draft Plan. It should be. It was developed in the absence of any consideration by the government of other forms of transport, and especially public transport, which would have a relatively benign effect on the Yarra River corridor.
It is understood that the extensive tunnelling proposed for the project would require the excavation of about 1.5 cubic metres of rock and soil, which would go to landfill (see Timna Jacks and Benjamin Preiss, "Warning over toxic soil from 'big dig,'" Sunday Age, December 1, 2019). It is not known whether any of the material is toxic and there appears to be insufficient landfill capacity to take it.
There appears to be potential for destabilisation of groundwater in the Yarra Valley in the Bulleen and Rosanna area as a consequence of the project.
Substantial areas of public open space is threatened by the project, together with about 25,000 mature canopy trees.
Adverse human health effects of the project would include increased air pollution and heightened road noise.
Paved surface area
One of the dysfunctional elements of the dominance of the motor car is the increase in paved road surface that is required to cater for ever-growing motor vehicle numbers. For instance, it is proposed to increase lanes capacity on the Eastern Freeway to cater for the North East Link project by over 40%, from 802,000 square metres to 1,127,000 square metres. The adverse environmental effects would include increased run-off of polluted stormwater into the Yarra River and elevated ambient temperatures as a consequence of the large increase in concrete and asphalt surfaces.
Local government and transport
It is not only at state government level that we have major policy failure in transport. For instance, if one is to consider the land area of the City of Boroondara, it is comprised of about 6,022 hectares, of which 1279 hectares, over 20%, is comprised of road reservations. About 80% of the land devoted to road reservations is controlled by the City of Boroondara, with the balance controlled by VicRoads. The reservations controlled by Boroondara contain about 560 kilometres of local roads.
Significantly, very few of these roads have been developed to provide for safe cycling traffic. They are designed, with few exceptions, exclusively for motor car traffic. Apart from the City of Yarra, the other councils with a direct interest in this project (the cities of Banyule, Manningham and Maroondah and the Shires of Nillumbik and Yarra Ranges), also appear relatively uninterested in increasing the mode share of space-efficient, and therefore environmentally friendly forms of transport.
The Status Assessment contained in the report of the Commissioner of Sustainability, State of the Yarra and its Parklands (2018), concluded that the status of the river was poor for 18 of its 25 environmental indicators.
These measures will continue to deteriorate unless substantial reforms are made to transport capacity in Melbourne, and especially in the Yarra River corridor, to preference space-efficient and less carbon polluting transport modes.
29 March 2020
People should know about the state government’s amendments to the Land Tax Act. An interesting article was written about it by Michael Flynn QC in The Age of February 17th 2020. regarding the amendment to the Land Tax Act to restrict land tax exemptions on contiguously rated properties only to regional Victoria. See: https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/home-owners-could-be-slugged-with-an-unfair-tax-20200213-p540jq.html. These changes have resulted in charging land tax for anyone in metropolitan Melbourne with vacant land contiguous with their place of residence. Until now, land adjacent to your home was exempt from Land Tax if the property was rated by Council as contiguous (i.e. house and land rated as one parcel of land) The new amendment has changed this to now levy the tax on any properties in metropolitan Melbourne which have contiguous vacant land next to a place of residence. (For the purposes of this exercise, Mornington Peninsula also is considered to be metropolitan by the way). A paltry $43 million revenue is anticipated.
We have just received a Land Tax bill for $7,786 for two vacant blocks adjoining our house on the Mornington Peninsula. We currently maintain the two vacant lots as 'Land for Wildlife’ – effectively as our bush garden. The garden provides the last remaining piece of intact habitat in the surrounding estate – and we say provides open space and improves the amenity of the area for all other resident too. Many other affected people might have veggie gardens, sheds, animal runs, chook pens etc.
We spoke to the State Revenue Office asking why the Act was amended, and were advised that there was a land shortage in Melbourne due to population pressures and that therefore the land should be developed. So, clearly this “initiative” is designed to get people with vacant land next to their existing homes to sell the vacant land- or maybe the home as well. The consequences of this are obvious: Developer windfall resulting in more people, more traffic, less trees, lost amenity and privacy etc. etc.
Many people affected by this change to the Land Tax Act might be asset rich but cash poor, living in properties they have owned for decades. The dramatic fall in interest rates is likely adversely affecting their ability to meet their existing costs of living, let alone a new land tax bill in the thousands of dollars. Presumably most affected people in the real metropolitan Melbourne, will have sites valued higher than ours on the Mornington Peninsula so will likely be getting bills for even more $$ than we have. They might have no alternative but to sell up.
I suspect many people would be horrified by this latest effort to destroy suburban amenity and impose social engineering on people who can no longer afford to live where they want to, just so we can jam in more people. It smacks of a desperate attempt by government to please developer mates by freeing up any remaining vacant sites in the suburbs for developers to move in- meanwhile existing residents are yet again the losers.
Surely this is an unfair and unjust tax. It was slipped in without any consultation with affected people or the wider community. It certainly was not flagged as a policy in the last state election, and the predicted $43 million revenue - for all the inconvenience it imposes on home owners and likely environmental and amenity impacts - is paltry in the extreme.
Another protest has been organised for today outside the Melbourne State Library to demand that the British government refuse the United States' illegal request to have Australian journalist extradited to the United States. (See Rallies in Australia and NZ to demand freedom for Assange and Manning. No to US extradition! (28/1/20). See also Protest Melbourne Friday 6:30pm to stop extradition of Julian Assange by outlaw Trump regime> (6/2/20) advertising the rally for Julian Assange held on Friday also outside the State Library). In the United States Julian Assange would face a kangaroo court and be jailed for up to 150 years for revealing to the world U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the Beginning …
Earth’s atmosphere was unbreathable to humans. But that was okay, since there were no humans. Photosynthesising cyanobacteria used sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into food, incidentally producing oxygen. The many microbially-mediated rocks (stromatolites) the bacteria left behind from their halcyon days indicate a cyanobacteria population explosion so vast that it seems likely that simple metabolism accidentally transformed the atmosphere to the one we love and overuse today. This ‘oxygen holocaust’ probably also brought about the fossil status of our inadvertent benefactors around 2.5 billion years ago.
If tiny animals could achieve this, imagine what a lot of humans can do.
Incredibly the evolutionary serendipity from our point of view did not end there because cyanobacteria fats eventually formed the petroleum hydrocarbons which drive the sophisticated combustion engines of trains and boats and planes today.
The human population explosion followed and our activities, combined with energy created by burning the cyanobacteria fats, created accretionary structures on a scale never seen before. We are covering the earth in dead matter, faster than any of nature's services can deal with, and it is said that we are changing the atmosphere into an oven.
Looks like we are going the way of the cyanobacteria.
At the beginning of this month, at the height of the bushfires in Sydney and Gippsland, I had the weird experience of spending two nights in a short-stay apartment building in A'Beckett Street, Melbourne. It was peopled by uncommunicative strangers and completely jerry-built. The handle fell off the door to the 18th floor balcony (lucky I was not outside at the time), the bathroom door kept sliding open unless you put a towel under it, the wifi was unreliable and weak, and the television did not work at all. A'Beckett Street is full of, and surrounded by, such multi-storey short-stay apartments, their mirror-glass neighbours reflecting them endlessly in fractals. I took photos of these broken glass splinters crowded together, group-punching the smokey sky, like angular stomatolites of unprecedented height.
Opposite the short-stay was a classic situation of an abandoned two-storey shop frogmarched between two taller buildings. And this group was dwarfed by a gathering army of giant towers. On every nearby street, more were being built, untidy packaging spilling onto pavements. You could not walk straight down a street because of the debris and the barriers. You could not talk because of the construction noise.
Dead matter. No green spaces, no animals or natural processes - apart from geological ones - to wear these materials down. When they crumble they won't dissolve easily back into the environment; they will be like their own tombstones; a jagged cemetery of human-generated stromatolites.
There was still a little bit of green at Victoria Markets - also doomed to be covered in skyscrapers, if Melbourne planning continues its rapine way with our city.
A friend expressed shock at the density of high-rises in Melbourne, wondering why the laws allowed them to crowd out the sunlight.
But homo economicus is driven blindly to convert land into money, as the cyanobacteria were blindly driven to convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. The cyanobacteria left stromatolites and homo economicus leaves giant agglomerations, but it's still just another way of getting food, however indirect.
These paragraphs about cyanobacteria come from the introduction to Sheila Newman, (Ed.) The Final Energy Crisis, 2nd Ed., Pluto Press, UK, 2008.