Insights from Quadrant

Road to ruin

A good friend is a truckie — an ‘owner-operator’, as he prefers to be known — but whatever the job description his occupation confers a privilege denied the rest of Daniel Andrews’ subjects: the right to drive hither and yon around greater Melbourne. One of his stops was near Quadrant’s Melbourne office, in Melbourne’s western suburbs, so there was an invitation to climb into the passenger seat, chat away and keep him company. We’ve known each for 50 years so there is always plenty to talk about.

The first thing you notice is how different things look beyond the permitted 5km radius from home, most particularly how they have changed for the worse. Crossing the Yarra on the Westgate Bridge, the traffic is light beyond memory. No traffic jams and a lot less cars. When the Premier makes an absolute dog’s breakfast of public health policies, the number of people with jobs, and the need to get to them, shrink considerably.

As the CBD skyline passed on the left, my friend wondered about property values, both residential and commercial. ‘All these people working from home, you reckon they’re ever going to get $200 a square foot rentals again?’ It’s a good bet they won’t, and with immigration down from its 250,000 per year of recent years, demand for homes has to be down as well. Low-interest rates, you’d reckon, would sustain demand for a while, but after that …..

We rolled towards Oakleigh, my mate muttering under his breath when a green-and-white VicRoads car was spotted. I couldn’t quite catch what he said, not with the noise of the Hino diesel under our seats.

“Pricks!” he said with vehemence when I cupped an ear. It emerged that the truck police had hit him up with four figures in fines for offences that, at least by his reckoning, had nothing to do with safety. One of his truck’s alleged deficiencies, he noted, was a tiny chip in the windscreen’s upper left-hand corner. On top of the fines it had cost him another thousand dollars to replace it once the revenue lost while his truck was in the shop had been factored in

“I’m, jolly sick of it,” he said, except the word wasn’t ‘jolly’. “You try to make a crust and what this state does is screw you every chance it gets.”

Out the window, in the shopping centres we passed, many others were being screwed. ‘Closed’ signs in every third or fourth window, minimal foot traffic. It required little imagination to catch the whiff of ruin and despair.

My friend was ropeable by this stage, having talked himself into a diatribe about the Premier, whom he blamed for his business shrinking by 40 per cent over seven months of autocratic incompetence and lies, lots of lies.

“I’ll tell you what the future holds for me,” my cobber said, spitting out the words. “Bankruptcy under the Christmas tree.”

At that moment the email alert on my phone beeped. It was a note from Quadrant contributor Geoffrey Luck, who had tried his hand at light verse. I read it out — shouted it, truth be told, over the engine’s roar.

Dan Druff gets in my hair
He acts as tho’ he doesn’t care
What happens to us orn’ry folk
Our liberties, our businesses are just a joke.

Stay at home, don’t step outside
Or some cop will have your hide.
Wear a mask – it hides your grim
Thoughts of what you’d do to him.

Dan Druff gets in my hair
It’s just as well that there
Are fines for what I’m thinking
To do to Dan as Victoria’s sinking.

My mate liked the line about what Geoffrey fancied doing to our Premier

We made it back to Western Bulldogs territory without being pulled over or fined. In Victoria, sometimes you can still get lucky.

— roger franklin




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