Tonight I spent maybe 90 minutes walking around the Melbourne CBD. I’m actually a fairly frequent visitor to Melbourne, at one stage I was probably here 3-4 times a year, in more recent years the visits have been less frequent, but todays visit is my second in 6 months.
It was 8pm local time when I left my hotel. I wandered from the Windsor opposite the Victorian Parliament down to the Burke Street Mall, across to Flinders Street Station, Federation Square then back again. Every where I walked there were masses of people and activity. Shops were opened, there were countless small bars and restaurants, and seven elevens are like rabbits, every 4th shop. It’s not New York, there’s no where on the planet that can compare to the Big Apple, but it goes close. I felt safe at all times and I had a smorgasbord of choice.
Melbourne is a true international grade city, complete withcrappy weather, but you cant win everything.
Which takes me to the poor mans excuse for a city: Perth.
I lived in Perth for maybe 18 months when I first moved to WA, and I then spent years working there. Even after moving to “the country” I spent countless weeks in hotels for work functions and training sessions. Although I may no longer live there I believe I’m qualified enough to comment on it.
Perth at night is dead. It’s only marginally better during the day. The difference is that at least during the day Perth is safe. At night it’s not. And it’s not because it’s complete dead, there are people about, at 8pm in the centre of Perth youth gangs brawl in the Murray Street Mall. OK, that’s not entirely fair, because they usually start at 6:15pm.
Melbourne and Perth share a similar history. Both are results of mineral booms. The difference is in the thinking. Where as Melbourne embraces the free market with deregulated trading hours resulting in a living city, Perth continues to embrace the notion of 19th century nanny state thinking. OMG, it’s the end of the earth if shops open past 6pm or worse still, open on a Sunday. The notion that the market, and by nature consumers know best is foreign. But wait, WA had a referendum on this, and the “majority” is opposed to deregulated trading hours. Whilst that is true, around 40% supported the notion. That 40% is enough to make Perth a true international city. Majority rule is absurd when it comes to trading hours: if the majority is opposed they simply don’t have to shop after 6pm. Economics will dictate opening hours, if there are not enough people interested in shopping after 6pm then shops won’t open, and it does not affect those opposed to the notion.
It would be easy to just simply bag Perth, many people from outside the state already do, but Perth has a lot going for it. It’s one of the most scenic cities in the world, it literally competes with Sydney and in many ways the controlled development of Perth has delivered a better outlook; there’s no Blues Point Tower in Perth for example. Western Australia needs a Government with the leadership to take Perth to the next level, the 21st century level that Melbourne currently delivers. Sadly, the Labor Party is better equipped to deliver this, the party of free enterprise (aka The Liberal Pary) has a long history of opposing deregulated trading hours, and it’s one of a couple of key issues that drove me to resign from the Liberal Party in 2005.
WA already knows how hard employment has become, a regular State unemployment rate under 3% is beyond what many economists would agree is a rate of full employment. WA competes with the Eastern States for employees: simply the State needs to a deliver a world class environment to attract internal and external immigration, Perth as it currently stands is nothing really more than a glorified country town. Having said that, I can shop in the country on a Sunday and after 6pm, yet aside from 12-6pm Sunday in the CBD and Fremantle you can’t in Perth, so it’s an insult to some country towns. Lets just hope that one day the States leaders will have gumption to act for the greater good and the future of our State.