The still sad story of my local ex-milk bar

Of all the hundreds of blog posts I have written since 2003, the one that sparked the most interest was this one from ten years ago, about the closure of the milk bar at the corner of Barkly and Canning Streets in Carlton. The post made it into one of Andrew Leigh’s books, and for years afterwards I was contacted by locals wanting to know more. Milk bars were part of growing up in Australia for anyone now middle aged or older, and I think the post resonated because it tapped into childhood nostalgia.

In 2009, I put the milk bar’s demise down to the redevelopment opportunities of a prime piece of Carlton real estate. The same people who in the 1970s would indulge themselves spending 20 cents on a bag of sweets at the milk bar were now willing to pay over a million dollars to live in the inner city. But that turned out to be an optimistic thought.

Instead the old milk bar has, apart from the occasional squatter, now been vacant for a decade. Today, it is boarded up and covered in graffiti.  I expect there is some story that explains ten years of inactivity, and why someone would forgo rent on the milk bar or the large amount a developer would pay for the land. But if we can’t have our milk bar back, a new house or apartments would be better than the current eyesore.

Barkly and Canning street corner ex-milk bar, 22 December 2019

Milk bar December 2019

Barkly and Canning street corner milk bar on its last day, 20 December 2009

milkbar resave

Visiting classical liberal to defend migration in Carlton

I’m not sure that Carlton’s lone classical liberal has many Carlton readers (Alex Willemyns is one of the few), but someone has asked me to promote a local event, a debate on immigration on Thursday night.

It features prominent Catallaxy blogger Sinclair Davidson and ‘Arthur Dent’, previously known as Albert Langer, who was an (in)famous Monash University left-wing radical in the Vietnam War era. They were still talking about him nearly 20 years later when I was a student there.

In one of the interesting political role reversals of the last 15 years, the right will support more migration and the left will oppose it.

Public transport social capital not dead

A couple of weeks ago Tim Watts got a lot of coverage (here’s the Club Troppo version) for criticising the lack of response – from himself, and from others – to an incident on a tram, where a beggar started threatening and racially abusing a group of young Asian people. Like everyone else on the tram, he felt intimidated. He said the ‘inadequacy of the police response has created a climate in which people are fearful of speaking out’.

While the incident I observed on the number 96 tram this morning didn’t have a racial element, it did show that not everyone responds passively to threatening incidents. After a brief spray of abuse, a young man struck an elderly man, knocking him to the tram’s floor. The offender was immediately challenged by the two men closest to him; he threatened at least one of them but briefly backed off, before becoming aggressive again. But he did not get to carry out his threats, as two other young men tackled him to the floor, and then got him off the tram, pinning him to the ground despite his struggles.

Meanwhile at least two people were on the phone to the police, who acted quickly. The first police car was there in less than 5 minutes, two more police cars arrived shortly afterwards. The thug was arrested and put in the back of a police van. Continue reading “Public transport social capital not dead”

Melbourne’s disappearing milk bars

Last Saturday, as I have almost every Saturday over the last decade, I went into the milk bar at the corner of Barkly St and Canning St in Carlton to buy the papers. On the verge of tears, the owner told me that this would be the last time I’d do so. Not by choice, they were closing down.

milkbar resave
The cnr Barkly St and Canning St milk bar on its last trading day, 20 December 2009
Continue reading “Melbourne’s disappearing milk bars”

Why do squatters get to stay so long in university property?

Melbourne readers will probably have heard of a long-running occupation by squatters of Melbourne University-owned terrace houses in Carlton (disclosure: some of my colleagues have been involved in this issue, but I have not). The squatters call themselves the Student Housing Action Collective, and have rested their case for staying partly on the ‘homelessness’ caused by a very tight inner Melbourne rental market.

What’s interesting about this case, I think, are the assumptions it reveals about the relationship between universities and their students. Legally, this looks like a straightforward trespass case. Many of us would like to live in a Faraday St terrace house, but none of us have the right to do so without the landlord’s permission, and we would quickly be thrown out if we tried to move in. But in this case, the squatting has dragged on for many months.

Every party to this dispute has been acting as if the normal rules do not apply. The squatter-activists (the squativists?) correctly judged that the University would not just throw them out. The University has been negotiating with the squatters despite its strong legal case against them. The media has been reporting the story as if the squatters have a case for staying.

In an Age op-ed this morning, housing lawyer Chris Povey put his finger on the underlying assumption:

Continue reading “Why do squatters get to stay so long in university property?”

The confusing choice for Melbourne’s Chief Garbage Collector

By far the most useful and important thing the Melbourne City Council does is to take away garbage, but for some reason the position of Chief Garbage Collector, aka Lord Mayor of Melbourne, is being keenly contested.

There are eleven candidates, at least seven of whom are campaigning seriously if the contents of my letterbox and the Google ads when I typed in ‘Melbourne City Council’ are a guide.

I told Tim Wilson, who is running for Deputy Lord Mayor on the Peter McMullin ticket, that I would vote for him. But that was before I realised that McMullin was a member of the ALP, and I cannot vote for Tim without also voting for McMullin. Admittedly, McMullin is of the multi-millionaire former Deputy President of the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry kind of Labor, and his campaign literature has the crucial words ‘rate freeze’ in it, but I’m not sure that I can bring myself to put a ‘1’ next to the name of a member of the ALP.

Of the other campaign materials I have received, pollster Gary Morgan’s promise of 5% cut in rates certainly caught my eye. And I feel I owe Morgan something for providing survey results for free. On the other hand, Morgan has a famously abrasive personality. When he used his polling company to see who was the frontrunner for the Lord Mayor’s job, he published the results with this fine example of pollster neutrality in the comments:
Continue reading “The confusing choice for Melbourne’s Chief Garbage Collector”

Should councils second-guess household arrangements?

There doesn’t seem to be a caretaker period for the currently underway (by postal ballot) Melbourne City Council elections, because amidst the large quantity of campaign materials from the candidates for Lord Mayor came a letter advising me of a plan to restrict to one the number carspaces in new residental developments in Carlton.

I’m not sure what any of the candidates think about this proposal. Just as Krystian Seibert (getting his second mention in less than a week) argues convincingly against minimum car spaces, I don’t think there is adequate justification for a maximum number. While it is true, as the letter points out, that there is good public transport in inner Melbourne, that’s only useful if residents don’t have to travel anywhere else.

It also assumes that households are interdependent members of the same family likely to travel together. That may be true out in the suburbs, but in the inner city there are lot of group households where people share the rent and bills but live otherwise separate lives.
Continue reading “Should councils second-guess household arrangements?”

How bad is my quality of life?

According to this Bankwest quality of life ranking, the Melbourne local government area, which includes Carlton, has the lowest quality of life in Victoria, and one of the lowest rankings in the whole country.

But I don’ t want to live anywhere else. Am I mad, or is this research bad?

To be sure, city living is not perfect. It can be a bit noisy. In Carlton, the presence of public housing, charities, and hospitals serving the mentally ill means that observance of the social niceties is not as high as it might be in Ku-ring-gai, the top ranked local government area in the country. And of course deeply unsound political views prevail (though it is not as bad as the city of Yarra across the road).

But inner Melbourne has a huge amount going for it too. The mix of cafes, bars and restuarants is the best in the country. There is a an excellent selection of shops. I’m not a sports fan, but for those who are there is an unmatched concentration of sporting venues around the CBD. There are beautiful 19th century gardens (including one just down the street from me). There are plenty of cinemas and theatres. There are two good universities in or near the CBD.
Continue reading “How bad is my quality of life?”

Do public schools create ‘melting pots’?

Over Friday and Saturday, The Age (as commenter Brendan pointed out) ran its own version of the SMH‘s ‘white flight’ from government schools story, adding in refugees in Victoria to the Lebanese and Aboriginal students in NSW allegedly causing an Anglo-Asian flight to private schools. The news hook was statements by Laurie Ferguson, Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, that refugees needed to be spread more widely rather than concentrating them in particular areas.

As with the SMH story, no statistical evidence was provided of the scale (or indeed, beyond principal’s unverified reports, reality) of this white flight. But let’s assume it’s true to some extent. If as we know parental background is an important predictor of school success, then the children of parents with poor English language skills, and who in the case of African refugees particularly may not be literate in any language, are not going to be ideal classmates, whatever exotic opportunities they may provide for cross-cultural experiences.

In a government school system still based primarily on people attending their closest school, the concentration of refugees in public housing that is also geographically concentrated means that refugee kids will form a large percentage of students in some schools.
Continue reading “Do public schools create ‘melting pots’?”

Carlton’s best classical liberal blogger

Some of my Liberal friends may feel envious that I can win a vote with just 13% support, to claim the title of ‘best solo libertarian blog in Australia’. As I do not use the label ‘libertarian’ I did not vote for myself. And as I only read a couple of the other fourteen contestants regularly enough to form an opinion on their relative merits, I did not vote for anyone else either.

But 161 readers of the Australian Libertarian Society blog did back me – though I do not know whether this is because they like my blog, or because at one point Graeme Bird was in front, and I was the most realistic chance of preventing him from winning (Graeme is the only person on moderation at this blog, but even if he wasn’t most of his comments would still be rejected for containing obscenities).

Whether I am Australia’s best solo libertarian blogger or not, I am confident that I am Carlton’s best classical liberal blogger….