Don’t know if you’ve noticed that in some of the major supermarket chains they have cameras throughout the store. If you use one of the farcically named ‘assisted checkouts’ in some stores there is a camera focused on your face. The large supermarket chains tell us the reason for all the cameras are that people were scanning high value goods as lower value goods. What a surprise! People will take advantage of the opportunity to steal from a large supermarket. In fact the supermarkets budget for a certain amount of theft, making the business decision that items not being scanned correctly is cheaper than employing people to ensure items are scanned correctly.
And if the people that are staffing the ‘assisted checkouts’ can get a break from attempting to get the checkouts to work when someone does something the programmers didn’t think of – they are supposed to be watching for people scanning $20 items for 20 cents. Given that frequently if the staff member has left school, it wasn’t that long ago, assertiveness towards thieves incorrectly scanning goods isn’t guaranteed. ‘Assisted’ checkouts are really a recipe for stock disappearing from the store without payment. Yet, the stock disappearing is the justification for increased video surveillance and those that have to buy food losing more of their privacy. The stores are happy to shout from the rooftops how low their prices are or how fresh their food is, but won’t address the ‘own goal’ of self serve checkouts, making the rest of us responsible for their economic decision.
Melbourne relies on Skybus to transport passengers to and from the major airport in the city. While the Skybus service and cost is reasonable, it is less environmentally friendly and has a lower capacity than the electric trains used in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. Various Victorian State Governments have announced that they will construct a rail line to Tullamarine Airport which would link into the Melbourne suburban rail network. The latest version of the scheme (first discussed nearly 60 years ago) was supposed to be completed by the end of the decade and cost $13billion.
The Guardian recently reported
Transport and planning experts agree a train line to the airport has multiple benefits. It would reduce emissions from car travel, ease road congestion, cut travel times and improve connectivity for Melbourne’s western suburbs – which include some of the fastest growing local government areas in Australia.
However, there is a shortage of construction workers and material that would add to the cost of the project, so it is likely to be delayed.
But Infrastructure Australia found most of the project’s benefits would not be felt until the recently widened Tullamarine Freeway – which links the airport to the city – reaches capacity. This is expected to happen in 2036.
“Delaying it would not reduce those benefits because the benefits were not expected to be felt for some time,” says Bradshaw, from the Grattan Institute.
Jago Dodson, the director of RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research, argues an airport rail project would help Victoria be a competitive city.
But he says the wider issue Victoria faced was not having an overarching transport plan to determine infrastructure priorities, which he believes is “failing” the state.
“If we had a coherent transport plan it could have asked whether it was preferable to leave the Tullamarine Freeway at previous capacity and for a rail line to pick up the future additional travel to the airport,” he says.
What a surprise! Spending billions on what was probably the more popular option (because people could see the work occurring) – widening the Tullamarine Freeway – is not the best answer to the real problem which is the ability of airline passengers and workers to travel to and from Melbourne City and surrounds quickly and efficiently. The article reports that transit times on Skybus (and logically every other vehicle accessing the airport from Melbourne) are expected to almost double over the next 30 years. Again, those that came up with the solution didn’t think through all the issues before implementing a solution that will cost more in the long term. And if the construction of a rail line is left until the Tullamarine Freeway reaches capacity in the mid 2030’s, Melbourne’s residents and visitors will have to put up with many years of substandard transport to and from the Airport until the infrastructure catches up with the reality that is already understood. To be fair, the same commentary could be applied to the Cross River Rail works in Brisbane or the need for the abundance of toll roads in Sydney. Again, we all pay for the ‘own goal’ of economics.
We could end up like the UK where there are reports of the roofs on schools are falling down because of lack of funding for repairs. It seems that there is a cost to the 13 years of austerity and ideology supported by the Conservative Government.
In 2010, when David Cameron and Osborne, with the help of Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems, ushered in austerity, they presented it as a short period of necessary pain that had to be forced on the country to put the public finances right.
Instead, today, the images and experiences are of under-resourced services and a general decline resulting from chronic, systematic lack of investment.
During the first term of Tory rule, austerity often went hand in glove with ideological arguments about creating a smaller state. But here, too, as Conservative MPs search for positive stories, there is instead evidence of mismanagement in pursuit of those ideological visions.
What a surprise! Poor building standards and a lack of maintenance even when essential, eventually ensures that infrastructure starts to decay.
The thing is that it doesn’t have to be like this. Essentially austerity and ‘small government’ hasn’t worked, as demonstrated in the UK. Can Australia become the ‘lucky country’ again by observing the problems elsewhere and refocus on people rather than attempting to judge when an economic benefit will be realised in the short term?
We can start by supporting the Voice Referendum. Giving our First Nations people input into decisions that affect their lives is logical because we all know that imposing economic solutions hasn’t worked for over 200 years. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the next referendum was to revoke the Voice to Parliament because there was essentially equity in lifespans and opportunities between all who choose to live in this country?
We have the means and ability to help people rather than ideology on October 14 – don’t waste it.
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