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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 7 April 2011) . . Page.. 1514 ..


It is slightly disturbing, reading through some of Alan Fitzgerald’s old columns, to reflect that the issues that appalled and entertained him 30 and 40 years ago are in many cases the same issues that have modern-day commentators and letter-writers fulminating over their computer keyboards and over which modern cartoonists and satirists are rubbing their hands with glee. Take this observation about planning, taken from a 1975 compilation of Alan Fitzgerald’s writings called Life in Canberra:

When things go wrong in Australian cities people know it is because there is no properly coordinated planning authority. In Canberra, even the mistakes are planned, by the National Capital Development Commission.

This of course was written before the existence of ACTPLA. He continued:

It is a great comfort to residents of the national capital to know that the backlog in the construction of Government houses, the absence of footpaths and the delay in the development of retail centres are not accidental occurrences but the result of carefully calculated professional advice.

Or this:

The NCDC says it takes seven years to plan a new suburb. Two years are spent in district design, engineering of roads and services, land development, construction of schools, government houses and shopping centres: the remaining five years are spent in trying to get the Department of the Capital Territory to agree to the building of a public toilet near the district oval.

And his observations about the bus network:

The longest distance between two points is a Canberra bus route … Bus routes are determined by the need to move the least number of people the longest distance in the maximum time.

Alan Fitzgerald did not confine himself to parochial musings. His work appeared over the years not just in the Canberra Times but in papers across the nation, including the Sun Herald, the Sunday Observer, the Sunday Australian, the Bulletin, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age. In time, he even became a publisher himself, presiding over the conservative periodical the Australian National Review for five years and establishing the Australian Constitutional News.

Nor did he confine his talents to print. He was a correspondent for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the mid 1970s and hosted a current affairs program for nine years on local radio station 2CA. His was a familiar voice on ABC radio and his was a familiar face on Channel 7’s breakfast program.

Alan Fitzgerald was a long-time member of the federal parliamentary press gallery and a founder and early president of the National Press Club. He remained active on the club’s committee for many years. His son Julian, also a journalist, recently commented that, almost until the day of his death, his father was still reading newspapers and listening to current affairs.


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