A.C.T. Developers Can’t See the Forrest for the APS Treehuggers


By Bat 21

Forrest, locked solidly in the circular orbit of the parliamentary zone, is pound for pound one of the leafiest, most affluent suburbs in the ACT. A suburb where it’s almost as frowned upon to be of a public service rank lower than APS6 as it is to be toiling with the rest of the private sector Proles, even if you are sitting comfortably on or above the mean Forrest income of $94,057 per annum.

Forrest residents were recently triggered and distracted from their usual Chicken Little concerns about refugee advocacy and where to find the best Espresso Martini in Braddon, when developers proposed a seven-storey hotel complex on the site of the old Italo-Australian club.

A torch- and pitchfork-wielding residents’ action group full of outrage and beans quickly percolated, not to be confused with at least four other previously-formed residents’ action groups within spitting distance of Forrest (including the Residents’ Achtung Group that meets weekly in the nearby Harmonie German Club). Nothing raises the ire of a red-blooded champagne socialist quite like a successful business coming into town and providing employment for a bunch of people from non-English speaking backgrounds who will eagerly do the kinds of jobs that your average APS considers beneath them. As surely as night follows day, such ire was raised in Forrest.

The Canberra "skyline" has often been compared to those of Woollongong and Box Hill.
The Canberra “skyline” has often been compared to those of Woollongong and Box Hill.

Forrest Residents’ Group convener John-Paul Romano complains in the article that the “Forrest skyline [bush capital residents love dropping largely unwarranted city references at every opportunity] is maybe four storeys max. Seven storeys is quite high”. Mr Romano clearly hasn’t noticed the 32 storeys of Parliament House, which is located about 500m away from Forrest, or the very conspicuous flagpole atop Parliament House that is itself a further 81 metres high, or 24 stories. But apparently they get a pass from the majority APS suburb, because naturally everybody in Forrest is totally against any private enterprise but always cheers for the home team, especially when that home team is big bloated government.

“I think the public perception is that Forrest is some rich area where people can look after themselves and they don’t have to be looked after by government, but it’s not,” Mr. Romano continued, in a statement that sounded strikingly familiar to one that might have been heard and disseminated by 1984’s Winston Smith during his tenure at the ministry of truth. “It’s the same as Gungahlin, it’s the same as Narrabundah, it’s the same as Red Hill”.

Exactly. Forrest is the same as all those suburbs, it’s just that the Forrest Residents Group seems to be a little lacking in perspective or self-awareness. The average house price in Forrest is $2,585,000.The average house price in Narrabundah is $821,000. The average home price in Red Hill is $1,240,000. The average house price in more recently established Gungahlin is $620,000. The residents of Forrest or those that they compare themselves to aren’t exactly Darryl Kerrigan in the hardship stakes, and their situation is far from being The Castle. A parolee who is languishing in a crack den in Kambah is unlikely to feel a great deal of sympathy for their rather minor situation.

Your intrepid XYZ Canberra Correspondent tried to interview several unwelcome interlopers not employed by the APS around Forrest, Kingston, and nearby Manuka (pronounced Mah-nu-ka, not Man-uka… don’t worry, they’ll tell you) to get a handle on the situation, from those who are about as loathed in the gentrified area as the prospect of a seven storey hotel complex.

One individual, who was obviously homeless or a resident of one of the ACT’s sporadic housing commission properties, inexplicably located in multi-million dollar suburbs they can’t afford to buy groceries in, could not be reached for comment as he was clearly busy schizophrenically shouting, waving his arms, and terrorising the Manuka restaurant hub (with pearl-clutching public servants too afraid to approach him or call the police for fear of looking prejudiced against the impoverished or mentally ill). The whole spectacle reminded me of Wesley Snipes’ role as Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man. I’m assuming that any meaningful police presence was delayed by Stallone needing to source firearms from the War Memorial.

Instead I approached a courier driver. I would have been able to tell he was a courier driver and not ranked between APS6 and Departmental Head, even if he’d been wearing their standard attire of a way too expensive Italian suit while still not quite managing to pass as somewhat cool, or even somewhat human.

He looked stressed, angry, and actually beholden to those annoying little banes of private sector existence like profit, time management, and performance. Living in Wanniassa, he didn’t have a dog in the fight, so he didn’t care about the hotel project either way, but I asked him what the retaliation of Forrest residents might be toward the ACT Legislative Assembly (an ACT amalgamation of council and local government that takes care of the machinations of both, yet does neither particularly well) should their concerns fall on deaf ears.

“They’ll just do what they’ve done for the past few decades,” he explained. “The Labor voters will tell everyone, ‘That’s it! I’m voting Liberal,’ while secretly still voting for Labor. The Greens voters will tell everyone, ‘That’s it! I’m voting for Labor,’ while secretly still voting for the Greens”.

Bat 21 for XYZ, Canberra.

XYZ Canberra Correspondent Bat 21 is trapped deep behind the enemy lines of the Australian Capital Territory, where believing that public service ambitions of one day securing eighteen years of paid parental leave per child to be a little excessive is likely to outrage the haves of the A.C.T., almost as much as trying to explain to them that casual employees don’t get any parental leave or sick days whatsoever. Bat 21 is ever fearful that his public service colleagues, who proudly proclaim that, “Nobody I know voted for Tony Abbott,” will one day learn the deep dark secret that he once voted for the member for Warringah while living in the foreign nation of Cremorne.

Photo by 317818WLJ