Hosting the G20 is just another example of ‘bread & circuses’, if you ask me.
We love them here in Australia, with last week’s Melbourne Cup Day being another excuse to drink, dodge work & keep distracted.
So, too, is Brisbane’s hosting of the G20.
Apparently, hosting such an event has great economic benefits to the host city & country.
Well, outside of the many rent seekers promoting such, I cannot find any independent studies proving it.
I spent some time Googling various search parameters to find not much at all.
Sure, John J. Kirton has done some great work on the G8 & G20. Ditto the Lowy Institute.
But nothing screams out at you about how good (or otherwise) such events really are. Maybe these studies are hidden under some bushel. But they aren’t high up in Google’s ranking.
Also, again apparently, Brisbane will get great media coverage during the event.
That may be true, but so what?
Name the last five cities that hosted the G20.
Do it now, don’t look it up. Many of you will say Toronto, but few that I asked in recent weeks could name any others.
Why Toronto? Because things went somewhat wrong.
And the 3,000 odd journalists coming here are hoping that something goes wrong in Brisbane, too.
Oh, for some video of Putin in a headlock; or Obama drunk & stumbling his way through Southbank – anything that they can report to alleviate the west’s boredom & get their network higher up the media ratings.
And the sillier, the better. Forget what the G20 is really all about.
But what really gets me is the smug way that our politicians & the city’s elite think that the G20 is actually wanted by the vast majority of Brisbane residents & local businesses; and that such an event ‘affirms Brisbane’s international standing’.
For mine, hosting the G20 will do nothing to change that.
Unless, of course, something goes wrong, very wrong. And if it does, it is all downside.
A cynic might say that if we stop something from going very wrong, then we show the world how safe Australia & Brisbane are. But aren’t we that already?
And here is the point….the vast majority of us who live here & those who wish to move here, want Brisbane to remain as it is – obscure; small scale; a bit slow; hospitable; a third-tier city & family friendly.
I think we should be spending our time & money on making Brisbane a better place to live.
Not hosting once-off events.
What makes a city work?
So what are the ingredients that turn a city into a great place to call home?
What’s the fairy dust that transforms a jumble of buildings & a network of roads and tunnels into something that inspires? Where is that sweet spot between efficiency & urban grit that makes a city feel right?
In short, what makes a city work?
Each city has one major thing. We need to start with that.
New York City has Central Park; Sydney its harbour & Brisbane’s unique & most powerful feature is its river.
The Brisbane River
Sadly, we seem to be selling the Brisbane River off in large chunks these days. The public cannot access it anywhere near enough. We cannot cross it enough, either.
For some reason, Brisbane aspires to be a ‘world city’; whatever that means.
If Brisbane truly wants to be an international city & sustainably grow business and tourist opportunities, then it must optimise its greatest asset, the Brisbane River.
The following isn’t a comprehensive list.
You might have some ideas of your own that you may wish to share. Comment below. We might do a follow-up Missive in coming weeks, highlighting any common themes.
1. Big trees.
I don’t really need to say much more here.
Yes, lots of cities don’t have any trees at all, and they are great.
But in Australia, big street trees & landscapes with mature trees are a winner.
Many of best places to live in Australia (and those that see the more consistent price growth) are those with areas with great landscapes.
Spend some time looking into it. The simple things in life are often the best.
Not the visual pollution we have here.
But very select signage that is themed & very coherent. Limit the amount of outdoor advertising & even road signs.
Next time you go to Tasmania or New Zealand, ask yourself what is different.
For mine, one of the key differences is that there is very little unnecessary signage & where it does exist, it must obey set design standards. Even Macca’s has to follow the rules.
I counted over 500 unnecessary signs (there are way more, but I lost patience) on my way to work recently, a distance of just 7km.
Yes, I am a strange cat. But think about it. Does your daily visual overload get you down?
3. A sense of scale.
This is where Brisbane is losing the plot, if you ask me.
The coming plethora of massive blocks of flats downtown is out of all proportion with human scale.
Renewal & rejuvenation also often mean sanitisation.
We will lose what makes many of these downtown areas attractive in the first place.
The same applies to our retail spaces. Big, air-conditioned boxes. The same chain stores in every location & Brisbane’s urban renewal hot spots will not be excluded.
We have a great outdoor climate.
We should be making much more of it. Life on the street isn’t just for the urban poor. 24-7 is needed in some places, too. We also need grit. We are getting better at it, but we need more. Sanitised often means boring. Yes, just like the G20.
Money spent on grants or the like to help get wider diversity in our retail & food offerings, would be money well spent.
Also, density needs to be offset; more common space needs to be injected into our highly developing urban areas. Less concrete & glass would be nice, too.
4. Suburbs that work.
Think mixed use; local employment & entertainment & a much more diverse array of housing types at different price points.
Residents want to age in place; they want to stay in the local area & help each other out; dare I say it – like a true community.
The mono-building, which Brisbane is now encouraging, is creating places that often won’t work from a broader socio-economic stand point.
Having places to which we can escape is very important. And how you can get there, equally so.
Brisbane is blessed with a fantastic hinterland; Moreton Bay; great islands like Moreton & Stradbroke & of course, both the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.
But the connectivity between them sucks.
We now have a pretty good airport, but not everyone can & wants to fly somewhere to get away.
So, I don’t like things like the G20. I especially don’t like what has become of the Melbourne Cup.
Australia should have said no to hosting the G20.
We would have won more respect from the other 19 by saying no.
We should have told the rest of the world, and in particular, us tax payers; that we would rather spend our money on things that actually matter.
Instead, Brisbane is now struggling with the disruption; many are worried about potential strife & too many are fooling themselves about the economic benefits.
Imagine if the time, effort & monies were spent on improving the public’s access to the Brisbane River – heck, just building another couple of bridges & fast tracking some ferry terminals would have done it for me – plus working to improve our housing & retail choices.
So, come Thursday this week, I – like many others – will be leaving Brisbane for a couple of days.
See, when it comes down to it, the G20, for most, is just an excuse to have some time off.
And we are going to Tassie again, if you must know. Four days without another sign in my face at every turn seems to do me wonders.
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