Saturday, 30 October 2010

Cycling and the City

With a Greens cycling group opposite the Windsor

Although I often drive an electric car and catch public transport, I'm a regular and enthusiastic cyclist. At this time of year, it's a pleasure to pedal around Melbourne on two wheels, taking in the sights and sounds of the city at her best. The Melbourne electorate is one of the most convenient to navigate by bike, but my aim is to make it even more cycle-friendly by working to resolve the issues repeatedly raised by cyclists, pedestrians and drivers. There are some general issues which usually involve the disappearing bike lane - whether because of a parked bus, road works, or just bad planning. But there are several specific issues which can use some attention. Here are my top ten:

1. North bank of Yarra River
Like Southbank, there is now a good pedestrian route along the North bank of the Yarra. However, there's no specific provision for cyclists, who often use this route to avoid pedestrians on Southbank. A safe cycling route east-west though Melbourne along the north bank of the Yarra is urgently required.

2. Albert St 'Copenhagen' bike lanes
Melbourne City Council has provided Copenhagen-style bike lanes along Albert Street, East Melbourne, greatly improving safety and convenience. Although some industry groups such as VECCI have campaigned against these bike lanes, they retain my full support.

3. "Parkiteer" cages at Southern Cross
Southern Cross station does not have simple and secure parking for bikes - even though it services regional Victoria as well as suburban Melbourne. We should have proper bike cages here for storing bicycles between train rides.

4. Swanston Walk
Swanston Street is the busiest cycle route in central Melbourne. Cars are banned but commercial vehicles, buses and taxis clog up the route when they park, particularly when trams go through. A cyclist was recently killed by a bus this route. Better support for cycling here is important.

5. Crossing Curtain, Lee and Princes Sts on the Canning St bike path
The passthroughs of bollards at Lee and Curtain Streets are dangerous. Some bollards have a spacing so narrow that being 15cm off line at 25 or 30 km/h will result in a nasty crash. Cyclists have marked these up with reflective tape. The Princes Street crossing has a wait of about two minutes - far too long. Too often, cars stop in the middle of the intersection, blocking cyclists.

6. Moonee Valley Creek Trail
This is a good trail, but at the southern end has no clearly marked and safe route into the city. This is urgently needed.

7. North Melbourne station
Cyclists and pedestrians need a way to cross from North Melbourne to Docklands without passing through ticket barriers.

8. Pedestrian and cycling access blocked
VicUrban recently blocked pedestrian and cycling access to Village Street from Village Place in Docklands, putting up hoardings around the South end of the Goods Shed and offering no alternative access.

9. Carlton Gardens
Cyclists use this green space as a route between Canning and Rathdowne Streets, partly because of dangerous cycling conditions along Rathdowne Street, creating a source of friction for other park users. I'm working with local residents, the Council, and Bicycle Victoria towards a positive solution.

10. Pin Oak Crescent and Eastwood Street
This route beside the railway line is popular with cyclists but has no marked bike lanes. It's time it did.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

A Day in the Life of the Campaign

Picture in the Oz

I thought I'd give you some insight into life on the campaign trail. This has been my day today.

At 6 am I listened to the news which mentioned that the Greens had done well in the latest Newspoll. I was pleased but did not take too much notice because you can never be too sure if this will play out over time.

I left home before the paper arrived to get to Kensington Station before 7. First I unpluggged the electric car, then rolled up the power cord, put it in the boot, and glided quietly out into the traffic.

I was going to meet a team of volunteers to hand out flyers to commuters.

Before I could get out of the car the phone rang - Steve Price on MTR. Would I do an interview after 7? I sat in the car and did the interview. I was told again that the Greens had polled 19% in Victoria - way above our 2006 vote. It seems incredibly high, but I'd much rather have that poll result than a worse one.

Was I confident? The pundits said I had a good chance, but it would be up to the electors on polling day. I was told that Helen Kroger had attacked the Greens in the Herald Sun. She said that a vote for the Greens was a vote for euthanasia and gay marriage and higher taxes. Was this right? I said she had two out of three right - we support dying with dignity legislation and same sex marriage legislation and would do all we could to bring that legislation about.

There were other questions about Hazelwood, about the margin in Melbourne (only 600 need to change their vote from last time).

The interview over, I joined our team in beautiful weather outside the station, and we had a very friendly reception from the people of Kensington as we chatted and handed out flyers.

Marian - my campaign manager - had printed out the online version of an article about the Greens in the Australian, complete with a photograph, which I read in between greeting Kensington folk.

At about 9 am we ran out of flyers and walked across the road to Luncheonette (which just about seems like a branch office) for breakfast (I had waffles with walnut and rhubarb).

While waiting I went to the newsagent and bought the papers. I read the Herald Sun first. A huge debate in the Liberal party about whether to preference us over Labor. Was John Howard really attacking us? How hurtful! And saying our policies were "worse than Labor's".

Then I realized my photo was on the front page of the Australian. It seemed slightly surreal.

We had a cheerful brekkie and then into the car to the North Melbourne office to unload the equipment. Todd (who is working with me through the campaign) and I walked through Flagstaff Gardens to my chambers to meet some potential consituents on several important issues.

After the meeting I tried to keep up with emails - a losing battle - and made and fielded numerous phone calls on campaign issues.

At 12.30 I raced with Todd to Victoria Market. There I met Kathleen Maltzahn, Cyndi Dawes and Anne Martinelli - Greens candidates for Richmond, Brunswick and Northcote respectively - for a photo shoot together for a newspaper. Together we are standing for the lower house seats the afficianados say could be won by the Greens in a month's time.

The photographer satisfied, we had a hasty but happy lunch together in the sun at the Market before going our separate ways. We've been campaigning together for over a year now, and there is a strong bond between us.

Back at chambers Matt, a photographer from the Leader, turned up for a further media shoot. I sat at a desk and then went outside and took various poses as directed while he snapped away.

Todd and I hurried out to catch a tram up to Parliament House. On the tram the phone rang for another interview with a journalist. Engrossed in answering the questions, I missed the stop and had to walk back to Parliament House.

I went through security and I felt a strange sensation as my belt buckle broke - into the bin with it. I waited in the parliamentary foyer listening to John Brumby addressing a gathering in Queen's Hall through the doorway.

I was there because Sky TV wanted to film a debate between the candidates for Melbourne in the Legislative Assembly Chamber on issues related to the Melbourne electorate. Soon Luke Martin (the Liberal candidate) joined me and we were escorted into the green chamber, where chairs were arranged for the interview. Bronwyn Pike (the Labor incumbent) had already arrived. We sat in a row and were questioned for half an hour or so on public transport, planning, violence, and our vision for Melbourne.

I came out into the broad sunshine of a glorious spring afternoon, and Todd and I walked down to Elizabeth Street together. He headed off to uni and I caught a tram to the North Melbourne campaign office.

There I caught up with a series of phone calls. There were more media interviews - and I was on the phone trying to give sensible answers to questions when volunteers began to arrive. Finally I got off the phone and we sat around for a meeting about doorknocking and posters - in between some more phone calls to the media.

After the meeting Marian asked me to proof read some documents I had written for distribution.

Out to the car. I began driving and the phone rang. I pulled over. A long call. Then another one before I could take off.

I arrived home at 8.15 just before my friend Lynda arrived to cut my hair.

Georgia and I (the only ones home) had tea together, and I went to the computer to check on a legal submission for the Tyler Cassidy inquest. I rang my junior in the case and discussed it for a time.

There was a text message inviting me to breakfast with Bob Brown at 7.30 tomorrow morning, and I've accepted. I have a few other things to do, but it's nearly 11 and it will soon be time to hit the hay.

That's my day.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Docklands meet your state election candidates session

Brian is speaking at this public meeting organised by Docklands News for the Greens, Labor and Liberal candidates to meet the Docklands community.
  • Date: Thursday, October 21, 7:30pm
  • Location: Harbour Kitchen, under the Bourke St NAB headquarters on the Victoria Harbour side.
The candidates will each speak for 10 minutes and then answer questions from Docklands voters. The subject will be strictly about what each candidate can specifically do for Docklands.

Docklands Harbour
The candidates at this event are:
  • Greens – Brian Walters
  • Labor – Bronwyn Pike (sitting member)
  • Liberal – Luke Martin
More information: Docklands News

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Invitation to a Melbourne local bike tour and BBQ

You are invited to come on a bike tour this Saturday to meet Brian and visit some locations and sights of interest in the Melbourne electorate, including parks, local developments and bike paths.  Details are:
  • Date: 23 October · 11:00 - 13:00
  • Start at:  Kensington Railway Station
Starting at Kensington railway station, this family-friendly bike tour will visit sights in Flemington, Royal Park, the Windsor Hotel and Parliament and will finish at 1pm with a BBQ in Yarra Park near the MCG. Salads will be provided; BYO the rest.

Cyclists on Canning Street bike path
We will use bike paths and bike lanes for most of the route.

Come along and learn about opportunities to improve safe cycle routes in Melbourne, and to make Melbourne greener.

See also Facebook event

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

2010 Vice Chancellor's debate on Asylum Seekers at Monash University

Brian speaking at the 2010 Vice Chancellor's debate on Asylum Seekers at Monash University. Brian spoke as the 3rd speaker for the affirmative.

Part 1

Part 2

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Senator Bob Brown launches the Melbourne Campaign

Inspirational Greens leader Senator Bob Brown launched Brian's campaign for the state seat of Melbourne on Monday 11 October at the Auditorium, Melbourne City Conference Centre.

Trent McCarthy was Master of Ceremonies. Adam Bandt (Greens MP for Melbourne), Brian, and Senator Bob Brown spoke at the launch.

We've already shown what we can do at the Federal level with strong grass roots campaigning, and commitment to values like compassion, equality and sustainability. We heard that Melbourne is very close, and everyone's vote will be powerful.

Brian Walters

Senator Bob Brown

Adam Bandt MP - federal seat of Melbourne


Local people explain why they are voting for Brian

A good turn out
Adam Bandt MP, Melbourne (federal)

Brian Walters

Adam Bandt MP, Brian Walters, Senator Bob Brown

Sally Polmear and Senator Sarah Hanson-Young

Senator Bob Brown
Photo credits: Peter Campbell

More photos

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Brittle Dark

Paintings by Jo D'Hagé on display at Fortyfive Downstairs

Last night I attended "The Brittle Dark" - a poetic and musical soirée at Fortyfive Downstairs.

Leading up to the premiere of Hugh Crosthwaite's new string quartet - which was wonderful - a number of people read poetry. The poetry readers were:
  • Terry Lane (broadcaster, journalist, author and prominent free speech advocate);
  • Barry Heard (Vietnam veteran and author of "Well Done, Those Men" and other books);
  • Barry Jones AO (Australian intellectual, former parliamentarian and minister);
  • Julian Burnside AO (barrister, patron of the arts, and human rights advocate);
  • Rod Quantock (comedian and activist);
  • Mary Kenneally (comedian and activist);
  • Sam Zifchak (professional poet, and events co-ordinator at the Australian Poetry Centre - part of the Wheeler Center).
I also read some poems, and I've been asked to post them. Here they are:

The first poem is by former poet laureate of the United States, Billy Collins:

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.

The next poem is by the 13th century Persian poet and mystic, Rumi:

The flute weeps to the pacing drum.
The drunken camel staggers to his knees
and tugs at the rope of reason.
The little bird in the heart’s cage
puts out his head on this side and that.
The flood fills the ancient river bed
and once again the river banks are green.
The falcon hears the royal drum
and circles seeking the wrist of the king.
The musk deer smells the lion
and her haunches tremble.
The madmen have seen the moon in the window:
they are running to the rooves with ladders.
Somewhere tonight
a dervish cries:
“It was my soul in the wine!
It was my soul.”

Then I read this poem which I wrote in Provence a few years ago:


No, no, never, never –
do not ask again.
Day has slipped from gold to blue
and night falls fast.
The cup is dry
The hour is spent
The blushing glass is drained.
The whiff of wine is old and stale –
faded, drab and stained.

Well. Well. Maybe, waiting –
Who can say for sure?
Summer’s past. The autumn’s here.
With fogs and busy harvest.
The bounty’s rich
The grapes are good,
The gold-hazed air is bracing.
I may grow cold, with warm days gone,
But still my heart is racing.

Yes. Yes. Always, ever –
Earth and sea and sky.
The faith to build,
The hope to bond,
The love to bind together.
Good endures and evil withers
Fades and rots like straw.
But life will give – and give again –
And giving, find still more.

Finally I read a poem by the US Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.