COVID-19

Melbourne has changed for the worse, more than any other city

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews took to Twitter and said – THAT’S six in a row – a proud boast from the Premier that attracted 140 likes and eleven comments.One respondent Bek said “I have certainly enjoyed living here more with you as our Premier. Thanks for everything you do to make Victoria great.”Not everyone on social media agreed but the majority were happy to be living in Melbourne despite its obvious shortcomings including increasing traffic congestion, expensive house prices, crippling rents and a CBD beset with issues around homeless people and beggars.A year later in 2017, Melbourne again topped the list with a little more restrained celebration as the pressures of living in a city growing at a rapid rate began to take hold.That year marked Melbourne being in the top three liveable cities in the world all the way back to 2002. That is and was a remarkable run of justifiable pride for Melbourne.Even as recently as 2019 Melbourne was second on that list only behind Vienna in Austria.Melbourne was to anyone outside Australia, living in places like Donald Trump’s America or a Europe ripped apart by Brexit and the pressures of land borders leaking asylum seekers wanting work and a European lifestyle, a desirable place to come and live in.Major events with global sports like tennis and Formula 1 motor racing put the city on the world stage and lifestyle advantages such as stable government, employment opportunities, good education a largely free health system made Melbourne the envy of much of the world.A Victorian friend working at the time promoting Melbourne to the world told me this week the ‘most liveable city’accolade was a major selling point. He said it made Melbourne seem like a safe, softer destination especially attractive to the tech community wanting to live with great coffee, a vibrant arts scene and a creative community to migrate to.On Wednesday this week that same list was released for the 2021 year. I’m not sure anyone bothered with such frivolous lists in 2020 as the globe battled Covid and no-one could travel anywhere as a result.Checking it seems, in Australia at least, Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills followed by the Sutherland Shire in Sydney’s south then Perth and finally Melbourne made the cut.This Wednesday’s list assessed 140 cities and rated each on stability, healthcare, culture, environment, education and infrastructure.Auckland has leapt to the top of the international list followed by Osaka in Japan and then in third place was Adelaide.Melbourne has crashed to equal eighth with the Swiss city of Geneva. Ahead of the previously unassailable Melbourne are Wellington the capital of NZ, Tokyo, Perth and Zurich.From first to eighth in two years and I’d argue tenth placed Brisbane and eleventh placed Sydney would, if you did the same study today, be ahead of us.None of this gives me any pleasure to report and I’d rather be singing the praises of a Melbourne I once loved living in more than anywhere else.And before the keyboard critics out there – as they have regularly in recent weeks on comments about this column – fire up and accuse me of throwing rocks from Sydney I needto disappoint you all.I live in Melbourne. I’ve been living back in Melbourne since March of last year moving back from Sydney just as the Covid virus started to take hold.Like all of you I went through the winter of discontent that was lockdown number two that lasted for more than four months.Like you I dealt with it and lucky for me I had work through most of the year and I earnt an income. I didn’t lose a business, suffer lockdown mental issues and made the most of it but I watched as slowly, silently and relentlessly the vibrancy and colour and heart was ripped out of this once great city.I first lived in Melbourne in 1976 for a year. I was a 22-year-old, wide-eyed and naive youngster from dowdy old Adelaide.Melbourne was everything Adelaide wasn’t, it was cosmopolitan where Adelaide was just dull.A share house in Albert Park was home before Albert Park was anything but a run-down pub, a hardware store – still there – and Andrew’s hamburger joint.Cheap Middle Eastern food with hoummus dips and falafel on Sydney Rd and equally cheap Greek lamb on Swan St in Richmond added to the pizza and pasta in Lygon St.Live music with Daddy Cool and Skyhooks made the pub scene seem more music central than London and you could watch footy at suburban grounds like the Junction Oval or Brunswick St.That was stint number one followed by a few years away then back for the beginning of the 1980s until 2002 so around 20 years. Appearing on and running programming for 3AW from 1990 for 12 years we prided ourselves on being Melbourne’s station.We campaigned to make Melbourne a better place supported Ron Walker and the Grand Prix when it wasn’t fashion able to do so and complained loudly when Australiachose Sydney to bid for the 2000 Olympics not us.We supported bringing stage musicals to Melbourne talked up shows like Cats and Phantom of the Opera and pioneered taking radio live to the crowds outside the MCG on Grand Final Day.Coming out of the dark Labor years it was a pleasure to be a part of seeing Melbourne grow into the international city it’s become.I then spent eight years away in Sydney and then for a time lived and worked in both places. Asked many times which city I preferred I always sang the praises both. Sydney has the weather and beaches, Melbourne the sport and cosmopolitan edge.Melbourne is still a large friendly village, while Sydney is a collection of warring tribes.So, it’s with a heavy heart we witness the damage that’s been done by the incompetent handling of this pandemic here. All the Dan Andrews fans in the world can argue as theywill against this notion, but the facts prove you wrong.Melbourne has had more and longer lockdowns than anywhere else in the nation, more people have died here, more businesses will go broke here, more days of learning have been lost here, more people will be mentally scarred here, and Melbourne will have changed for the worse more than, any other place in Australia.It’s no longer the most liveable city in the world or even the most liveable city in Australia. It will be a long road back and only possible with political leadership that’s sadly these daysmissing.LIKES– Early ski season snowfalls just a pity no-one in Melbournecan go.– Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s whack at China – theydeserve it.– D-Day remembrance on the Normandy Beaches what ageneration willing to sacrifice all they were.– State of Origin being staged in Townsville far northQueensland what a raging success.DISLIKES– The price of firewood spikes 35 per cent a year.– Collingwood pushing Nathan Buckley out the door mid-season. He deserved better.– The Covid cops harassing publican Paul Dimattina fromLamaros Hotel.– The Melbourne couple for whatever the reason taking a roadtrip to Queensland.

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