A Peculiar Crossing

A Peculiar Crossings

There is a pedestrian crossing just to the north of Bonbeach Railway Station. On one end it opens directly onto Station Street and likewise on the other side onto the very busy Nepean Highway. One assumes it was put there to make it easier for the residents of the adjacent Broadway to access the beach and the (historically busy) shopping strip. However, it seems to see a great deal more use for other destinations than the beach. The shopping strip in Bonbeach is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Thus, people walk primarily not directly across to the beach which is attractive only seasonally, but north to the thriving shopping strip in Chelsea, or south to the train station to access the city-bound platform.

A strong desire-path has formed as a result of foot traffic coming from the crossing down to the station entrance. The path itself is somewhat precarious as the line of shrubbery pushes the pedestrian very close to the road. Caution is required. This lack of facilitation for foot traffic is constituted not only to the south where no planned footpath lay;1 there is no signalised crossing, nor under- or over-pass, to facilitate crossing to the shopping strip to the north. One must simply rely on one’s wits to cross the road. This is not too challenging for most people, but it definitely reduces accessibility and walk-ability in the suburb for the elderly, children, and people with a disability, who are restricted not by wits but by physical capability. For example, children lack the necessary peripheral vision and developed pre-frontal cortex to judge car speed and the timing of a safe crossing in-between traffic.2

View from the crossing towards the desire-path and Highway

View from the crossing towards the desire-path and Highway

This may have been adequate once-upon-a-time when Bonbeach was a rural bayside village, but the densifying of the suburb and the urban sprawl surrounding Frankston have meant a great increase in transiting and locally-generated traffic making use of Nepean Highway. At this tapered end of the Highway, it is only four lanes at this time, but a lack of a median strip, a speed limit of 60, and the sheer density of peak hour traffic make for long waits to safely cross with a certain risk always at play, especially for the above-mentioned groups of people.

The listing of Bonbeach station for reconstruction as part of the state-run level-crossing removal project has provided an opportunity for renewed walkability in this particular part of the suburb, and even at this particular pedestrian crossing. In its initial proposal to the local community, the government put forward elevated rail as the preferred solution. It’s cheaper, it doesn’t cause potential damage to the nearby wetlands, and it preserves all existing points of crossing whilst also opening up additional points of crossing where-so-ever the rail is sufficiently elevated. This was something better, not ideal, but better. The Nepean Highway Problem would remain, but at least the railway would no longer form a double-whammy for foot traffic; people would more ably access the station from underneath the viaduct, rather than using the precarious desire-path that they do now.

Sadly, the loud and short-sighted shouted down the proposal as “ugly” and destructive of their view of the beach. This in spite of the fact that the majority of residences on the western side of the rail reserve do not have a view of the beach owing to their mostly single-story mix and the view-obstructing trees and shrubbery planted along the rail reservation. In any case, the local electorate was extremely marginal at the time3 and so the government caved and agreed to a rail trench instead. The consequence has meant that the money saved by elevating and otherwise expended on additional amenities will instead be flushed into a more-expensive trench which will prohibit the amenities and development options that may have made the suburb more walkable. In particular, the government has declined to retain the pedestrian crossing at Broadway and will not be replacing it with an overpass. It will disappear altogether. The further-north pedestrian crossing at Golden Avenue will be reconstituted as an overpass, which will sadly not extend over the Highway, only the railway. Pedestrians will be dumped off on the other side of the track and will then have to negotiate traffic for themselves.

At least, that’s where things apparently stand as of today. These plans were put forward before the nearby crossings at Argyle Avenue and Chelsea Road were added to the list to be removed. The plans will need to be revised, and so perhaps this crossing may survive and may indeed be reincarnated in a more foot-friendly manifestation. I have hope, but also doubt. The government has already ruled out elevated rail for the entire section between Bonbeach and Aspendale, and so that obstruction remains. One barrier (a railway) will simply be replaced with another (a trench), and so the possibility of the Broadway crossing surviving seems slim. However, I’ll wait until the final overarching designs for the section of railway are released before passing final judgement as to whether this opportunity for revitalisation has been met or squandered.


  1. Though there are some parking spaces that were added over the last few years. No adjoining footpaths were concurrently laid. This is a strong example of building for cars instead of people. ↩︎

  2. They’re also short-legged. ↩︎

  3. Carrum district was within 500 votes (a less than 1% margin) of being retained by the then-incumbent Liberal in 2014. Since then, at the 2018 election, the margin has blown out considerably with the seat now considered ‘safe.’ ↩︎

Medevac and the Politics of Fear

Medevac and the Politics of Fear

In line with the various desperate and dogmatic moves made by the federal government, rhetoric has shifted increasingly to the area of final resort. From the last preponderances on dealing with climate change under Malcolm Turnbull, to the current threatening hyperbole of Scott Morrison spreading fear of “paedophiles and rapists” coming in their “thousands” to our shores, the massive shift from a position of attempting to govern to just pure politicking is fully self-evident. Whereas Turnbull initially built his leadership on an attempted departure from the reactionary conservative politics of his predecessor — of abandoning the three-word slogans — the Morrison government has been defined by its return to the roots of modern Coalition politics. Cajoling and rabble-rousing over the issue of refugees is always a fraught area and prone to borderline racism, but it too often pays dividends for conservative politicians to be passed over by a desperate conservative government which lacks any real policies; which has to concoct crises for which they can contend to hold the anecdote.1 The dangerous consequence is the vile rhetoric and the justification of hate and prejudice which follows.

The Migration Amendment (Urgent Medical Treatment) Bill 2018 or “Medevac Bill,” is a relatively benign amendment to the Migration Act which allows for refugees being detained in offshore “processing facilities”2 to be treated for medical illnesses in Australia. What makes the legislation so benign (watered down) are the various caveats that have been attached: 1) seeking medical treatment in Australia is contained to those refugees who a) cannot be otherwise treated by the inadequate facilities in PNG or Nauru, b) are not marked as a national security threat by Home Affairs, c) are already being detained, meaning that the law does not apply to future arrivals, d) are subject to a multi-week process of objection and review if the Minister chooses to interfere on any grounds, and 2) the refugee remains, for all intents and purposes, under detention for the duration of their onshore medical treatment, meaning they will be handcuffed and/or imprisoned and segregated from the public as would be a criminal.

In spite of the massively watered-down nature of the legislation, which was itself a prerequisite to attain the support of the more right-leaning independent members of the House of Representatives, the government has had to react by way of open warfare. The defeat — any defeat — on the floor of the house is a major political blunder for any government. It was secured, at all costs, by Labor for the hoped-for political dividends that would be repaid by having the government on the back-foot.3 The result has not been the calling of an early election, nor even the humane treatment of refugees, but rather a more vitriolic rhetoric from the government as it ramps up the dog whistle. Layered in alleged bleeding-heartedness for those who have drowned in transit, is a deep seated racism at its core that the government hopes the low-education and low-information voters who constitute the hard-swinging section of the electorate will hear and respond to with fear and votes for the government. The obfuscation of this nasty racism by a proclamation of supposed humanity for “preventing drownings at sea” serves as the sweet-tasting veneer needed by the rest of the more educated swinging voters in order to make the hardline anti-refugee policies of the government palatable and even justifiable.

This, notwithstanding the fact that the drownings at sea are in fact encouraged by current border security arrangements. Towing unseaworthy vessels back out into the open ocean, refusing entry to Australia via safer means of transport, and actively buying up or destroying seaworthy vessels, are all aspects of a policy that has never in fact been predicated on the supposed good-will of preventing drownings. It has always been about subtly hinting at the public that they are safely protected from the fear-inducing other; the brown-skinned and non-English-speaking desparates who maliciously await their opportunity to displace the white working class and recolonise Australia as a Sharia haven. In truth, the fear of displacement and recolonisation is a fear based on a mis-truth spread with the aim of distracting the general public from those whom they should truly fear: the wealthy and powerful elites who readily abandon any morality and brutalise and imprison the weak and infirm just to secure their own prosperity and the poverty of others. More dangerous to Australians than the possibility of desperate human beings being given some humanity, dignity, and the opportunity for a new life, is the desperate dogma of a dying government and the politics of fear which it uses to divide and destroy the lives of those detained on remote tropical islands and those who dare to question the basis of the at-its-core racist and inhumane border security policies.

Notes


  1. The only alternatives being to either develop policies to address real issues, or to admit self-defeat and resign. ↩︎

  2. This is the offical term for these places. However, if you have no alternative and are compelled to the confines of these under-resourced and over-crowded tropical camps, you cease to define the facility as a processing centre and instead refer to it as what it has become — a prison. ↩︎

  3. It would have been a tough debate internally for Labor. They recognise any issues around refugees to be an Achilles heel for them; but the potential consequences of a monumental legislative defeat for the government including greater instability and a potentially earlier election, are just too good to pass up, especially whilst they remain ahead in the polls and can take risks. ↩︎