I reckon that it
must be pretty easy to get a job at the Institute for Public
Affairs. But first, the grandiose title of the organisation
needs some clarification. Firstly, the so-called “Institute” is
not at all concerned with affairs of the public. In fact, and
secondly, it has no real interest in the public, affairs or
What leads me to
sledge the IPA again, is that each time I read their little
diatribes in The Age, I am, once more, appalled that the
claims the writers make are given space in any public arena, let
alone the ‘thinking person’s’ broadsheet.
A couple of
weeks ago a Mr. Chris Berg who holds the lofty title of
“Research Fellow” at the IPA, penned a piece that extolled the
supposed virtues of the car. To summarise his ramblings, Mr.
Berg, Research Fellow at the IPA, argues that cars are even
better inventions than sliced bread and that he likes the wide
open spaces of his car. It would seem so because he obviously
has an aversion to all forms of public transport and push bikes.
According to him engaging in these forms of transport may mean
he has to rub shoulders with the great unwashed.
Now, I will be
the first to admit I’m not the brightest bulb in the Christmas
tree lights but at least I try and argue with myself, not
against myself in the same breath. Unlike me, the esteemed Mr.
Berg, Research Fellow at the IPA, can’t seem, at one point, to
hold a thread of logic together through four sentences.
In the section
I’m referring to I think he is trying to tell us that
governments have responded to the increased use of bicycles by
building more bike paths. He then says that more bikes than cars
are sold each year. Then he says more bike lanes “may have had
an influence on this”. He then caps of this part of his argument
by stating, with all the gravity of Moses bringing down the
stone tablets, “But cars continue to sell in increasing
Now, like I
said, I don’t claim any great intellectual insight or ability
but when I first read this bit of Mr. Berg’s argument I was
stumped. It seems that Mr. Berg was making a claim that even
though there is great demand for more (and safer) bike lanes and
paths, we should abandon them for cars simply because “…cars
continue to sell in increasing numbers.” Or did I miss his
He goes even
further by saying that a “responsible government” will build
more roads regardless of the consequences. However, what Mr.
Berg, fails to recognise – and I suggest he get around his
office a little more – is that governments don’t build roads
For the last ten
to 15 years all the major road developments in the capital
cities have been built by privateers who run them for profit. If
Mr. Berg was to get around his office more, as I suggest, he
would find that his employer is one of the cheerleaders for
small government and larger private profits! The IPA is a
champion of the adage, “privatise the profits, socialise the
should, I think, re-image himself a little – to use that great
marketing term. As a “Research Fellow” I would expect him to do
a little research, something his argument is seriously lacking.
Cars are safer
than they used to be. OK, I concede he got that right. What he
doesn’t tell us is that despite the advances in automobile
technology passengers are now travelling faster than ever and
the injuries they have in accidents are, overall, more serious.
While advances like airbags do mitigate, to some extent, head
traumas, they don’t protect the torso and legs of victims. Nor
do they protect from side impacts, unless you have the cash to
buy a more expensive model car. However, these don’t protect the
pelvis either. So while there has been some reduction in head
traumas (among the victims involved in low speed crashes in cars
fitted with airbags) mobility problems resulting from accidents
are, overall, not being reduced.
In short, what
Mr. Berg fails, miserably, to acknowledge is that the types of
injuries occurring in newer model cars are no less serious than
older cars and that the cost of treatment, rehabilitation and
re-entry into the workforce (if ever) is borne by the public
purse. When it comes to car accidents, there is even a class
esteemed Mr. Berg, Research Fellow at the IPA, also fails to
research is the cost to business and individuals who must now
pay for the right to traverse cities cross cut by privately
owned roads. Not only does he not factor this into the cost and
inconvenience of motoring, he also fails to acknowledge the cost
to the state (and therefore the tax paying public) of enforcing
the fines imposed on those who don’t, won’t or can’t pay.
You see, as I
said, Mr. Berg works not for an institute concerned about the
affairs of the public, he works for an organisation that is
concerned about the inconvenience caused to the rich and ruling
classes by such things as taxes, free public spaces, community
obligations and the moral duty each of us has to be concerned
about the welfare of our neighbours and future generations.
While Mr. Berg
is keen to promote sales of SUVs and other petrol guzzling
vehicles perhaps he should engage that keen research mind of his
and own up to the blinkered view of the world he has. Perhaps,
even, maybe for one day, ride a bike or take a tram to work. But
no. That won’t happen.
For the Chris
Bergs and IPAs of the world, the rest of us are a nuisance. We
don’t consume enough, we cost too much to feed, clothe and
medicate should we become homeless, sick or debilitated. Of
course, in Mr. Berg’s world, the amenities he enjoys came fully
formed out of history. After all, he doesn’t want to pay for the
privilege of reducing greenhouse gasses or reducing the road
toll. The wanna be ruling classes never do.
As his argument
falls to pieces around him, perhaps what Mr Berg needs to do is
heed the closing words of his article. He writes that taxpayers
should be heeded when governments make decisions. According to
his argument more of us, who are both taxpayers and members of
the public, are turning away from our cars when we can and
taking to the humble treddly in an attempt to unclog our roads
and improve our health.
I think I will
apply for a job at the IPA. It can’t be too hard to get a job
there. It seems the only qualifications you need are an
allegiance to the ruling class, ignorance of what “the public” –
as communities - really can be and an unshakable belief in the
infallibility of the market. Then again, perhaps I won’t.
article was titled “Pedestal to the metal”, The Age,