In little more than a generation, Brisbane's skyline has been transformed into a ghastly inhuman wall of office blocks and high rise residential apartments. Today, much of Brisbane resembles a war zone as established business districts and neighourhoods are further trashed as this process is continued, along with a spate of more recent white elephant infrastructure projects, all at a horrific cost to our local and global environment.
A small, but welcome, pause from this breakneck pace of over-development occurred when Labor Premier Anna Bligh on 23 February, as reported in Brisbane's Courier Mail Newspaper, responded to a public outcry against the threatened destruction of Brisbane's Regent Theatre. The 80 year old Regent Theatre was to be effectively destroyed in order to make way for an AU$800 million 38-storey commercial high-rise at the back of the Regent Theatre. However, Premier Bligh used rarely enacted legislation to stop this. The legislation allows the Queensland Government to force the private developers, Multiplex and ISPT, to keep the Regent cinema operating regardless of whether or not they wanted to.
As welcome as Premier Bligh's stance is, it is sadly out of character with her overall record. Anna Bligh and her predecessor Beattie who have embraced a 'growth at all costs' mind-set which has no regard for the preservation of Brisbane's quality of life or the well-being of future generations. Both the Queensland Labor Government and Campbell Newman's Liberal Brisbane City Council administration have ridden rough-shod over community objections to many other inappropriate infrastructure and housing developments. These include the Suncorp Stadium, the Hale Street Bridge, the North South Bypass Tunnel, the Airport Link tunnel, Brisbane Airport's second runway, the conversion of the publicly-owned Yungaba migrant hostel into a private gated community, Minnippi Parklands, the Traveston Dam, the Wyaralong Dam, etc. In 2005 the residents of Maleny endured an invasion of 150 Queensland Police so that the Woolworths supermarket, opposed overwhelmingly by local residents could be built.
However, on this occasion, instead of ignoring the wishes of the Brisbane community, the Queensland Government has supported them and even the equally pro-development opposition leader Laurence Springborg has endorsed Anna Bligh's stance.
However, another force for relentless over-development, namely Brisbane's Courier Mail newspaper, owned by US citizen Rupert Murdoch, has chosen not to relax its stance and has harshly criticised the Premier in an editorial "Protection in name of popularity" of 26 February.
The Courier Mail editorialists believe that the right of the developers to profit from the further disfigurement of Brisbane's skyline is more important than the wishes of of Brisbane residents to retain what little is left of their heritage. It stated:
... but does that then give the State Government the right to dictate to a profit-driven private sector developer what sort of business it can or cannot operate on the site? Presumably, one reason for the proposed redevelopment is that a 30-year-old four-cinema complex is a less profitable use of the land than a 38-storey office tower.
From the point of view of society at large, few profits are to be had from these projects. Instead, they merely facilitate the transfer of wealth out of its pockets into the pockets of the likes of Multiplex and ISPT, whilst massive quantities of greenhouse gases are pumped into the atmosphere, particularly during their construction phases, and the earth's scarce and diminishing stocks of fossil fuel and metals are exhausted. In no more than a generation, these high rise structures will be inoperable as the necessary fossil fuels become ever more scarce and will stand just as much as monuments to to the folly of today's political and business leaders as do the pyramids built on Central America's Yucutan peninsula stand as monuments to the folly of the leaders of the failed Mayan civilisation.
The Courier Mail editorialist then argues that the taxpayers of Queensland to make up for the shortfall in profits:
Now it is quite possible that the developers might be able to rethink their proposal and decide they can make it work, with the Regent intact. However, if Ms Bligh feels so strongly about preserving the whole of the theatre complex, then perhaps she should be arguing the case for some sort of government underwriting – not something we would support – rather than simply sticking it to the private sector, as it were.
In reality, the evidence shows that it is today's taxpayers and ratepayers, as well as future generations, who subsidise the profits of developers, because they are forced to foot the bill for the infrastructure made necerssary to service such developments.
The editorialist also effectively accused Premier Anna Bligh of pandering to populism, when it asked:
But is it possible that this whole exercise is less about protecting fond memories and more about good old-fashioned, politically motivated playing to the crowd?
The Courier Mail editorialists no doubt prefer leaders who know better than 'the crowd' itself what is good for them, hence their past support for the North South Bypass Tunnel, the Hale Street Bridge, "Work Choices", the privatisation of Telstra and Queensland's Energex electricity company, high immigration, the Iraq war, the Traveston Dam, forced local government amalgamations, etc.
Independent candidate for Lord Mayor of Brisbane
Thanks Jason for posting this. The original article is entitled "Saving the Regent Theatre earns Queensland Premier the wrath of the Courier Mail" and can be found at http://candobetter.org/node/342
However, the article is not actually a plan to save the Regent. That appears, thankfully, to have been done by Premier Anna Bligh. I meant to use the occasion to give due credit to a politician in whom I otherwise see very little of merit, also to comment on the anti-democratic pro-developer stance of Brisbane's Courier Mail newspaper.
Whilst normally supportive of Bligh, when she does the bidding of powerful vested interests, the Courier Mail was hostile to the Premier's out-of-character decision on this occasion.