More participation needed for democracy to thrive
Thee Council does not have an independent view on the plans to radically alter the railway station precinct and the Civic Hall site. Council is apparently of the view that because the land on which these public facilities are located is state owned the State Government will do what it likes. Moreover, the Council fears that if it opposes the plans of the State Government, funding of major projects may be withdrawn and Ballarat will get nothing. In simple terms, this means that our Council is not acting to represent the Ballarat community because they fear retribution from the Government, Whether this fear has any basis is unclear. What is clear is that Council has abdicated its primary role, which is to represent the interests of Ballarat and its people.
The origins of this sorts of problems lie in the lack of engagement by the great majority of citizens in civic issues. When the government moves to permanently undermine the role and functionality of the railway station precinct; a public facility which serves the whole community, one would expect a broad public outcry. When the government moves to destroy the role and functionality of Ballarat’s largest cultural and community gathering space, located in the Cultural Precinct of the CBD one would expect broad community protest. So the fundamental problem is one of disengagement and a lack of participation by the community in the local democracy.
We do know that most Ballarat people oppose the central aspects of the State Government plans for the railway precinct, but, while they are angered by the plans and the government’s abuse, the great majority of people stay silent.
The lack of action by the community members, gives politicians and bureaucrats free-reign to serve other interests, including; making money by selling off public land and community assets; pandering to big-business interests, such as property developers; and advancing their personal career ambitions. An examination of the actions and career trajectories of bureaucrats, councillors and politicians reveals how personal ambition often comes before community representation.
As a community we need to reflect on the state of our local democracy and ask ourselves:
- Is our city operating democratically?
- Are the interests of Ballarat and its community being served?
- What are the long term consequence of public disengagement in civic affairs and public life?
- What can be done to remedy the sad state of our local democracy?
Hopefully, readers will come to realise that without our active involvement in public life, including voicing our views on civic issues, many in positions of power and privilege will inevitably use Ballarat for their own advantage.
Will the Government listen if we speak up? Yes, the Premier does seem to listen when enough people speak up. Only recently, Daniel Andrews intervened and put an end to the plans to install and over-engineered bike path through the beautiful and historic central median of Sturt Street. Daniel Andrews does seem to listen and act on the will of the people. We need to tell him what we think and want.
Jonathon Halls Millbrook
A better idea for a station
Recently there was an opinion piece about undergroundimg Wendouree railway station. What a colossal waste of scarce money was all I could think off. Why not reopening a Ballarat East railway station situated somewhere near the freeway/highway interchange? Plenty of land for both station and car park. Use that scarce money to provide relief to both Wendouree and Ballarat by serving the eastern side of the city and its outlying but rapidly growing suburbs and edge towns. I mean Bendigo has four railway stations for a similar population - all well used. While Ballarat has two; one in an overcrowded city centre. Let's be realistic about scarce tax dollars and an additional station in the East opposite the school would provide a greater use of those tax dollars and provide a much needed and used service.
Andrew Robinson, Glenlyon
the great barbecue leveler
There are few events as classless as an Australian supermarket sausage sizzle. Last weekend I did my first one with friends from Rural Australians for Refugees. Money raised will help support a local refugee family. Because we had a banner and posters portraying the plight of refugees I was concerned we might cop some flak, given the saturation anti-refugee rhetoric emanating from Canberra. Instead, it was an uplifting experience. There was no abuse and so many people were supportive, telling us how much they appreciated what we were doing. Customers weren’t communists, raving lefties or greenies, just ordinary folks appalled at the cruelty Australian governments of all parties are inflicting on desperate families seeking a safe place to live. I’ve never felt so proud to be an Australian.
There was no dissension from Tony Abbott when John Howard helped initiate the Iraq war instrumental in getting so many of the refugee boats started. Australia has an undeniable moral obligation to help those fleeing the carnage we helped create. The irony is that the most disingenuous anti-refugee rhetoric is coming from politicians who pride themselves on their Christianity. Their most blatant lie is they are preventing deaths at sea. They prefer to nobly condemn families to lingering deaths of desperation in refugee camps. It would be fascinating to be a fly on the wall when these phony Christians face their god on judgement day.
Lawrie Wilson, Ballarat Central