Friday, October 16, 2009

In praise of John Watkins

I have two reasons to want to write a short note in praise of John Watkins, being Alzhiemer's and trains.

It was my pleasure to attend a lunch last week hosted by Alzheimer's Australia NSW at which Grame Samuel spoke about his own familiy's experience. John Watkins left politics to become CEO of this body and has done a wonderful job of raising its profile. I loved most John's quote that forgetting where your keys are is not a sign of dementia, forgetting what they are for may be.

While John is doing well, I'm concerned that he has a long way to go to displace breast cancer in popularity as a cause - yet I suspect that more people of my generation will suffer in life from the effects of dimentia, as sufferers, carers or friends, than anything else. Here I am also making the distinction between the effects on quality of life rather than just the end of life.

John Watkins left politics rather suddenly to take up this job, probably leaving just as the ALP needed him most. The party's stupid approach to factions denied John the Premiership when Bob Carr stood down, only for the party to have to resort to a more untried and certainly less talented man in Nathan Rees fom the left.

John wanted out because, in part, he was sick of the excessive ctriticism of Transport by Treasury. This was the time when the North West rail was canned to become a metro, which itself has been shrunk. The flavour of that battle has been listed in a Crikey post today that read;

News today that Sydney's controversial CBD Metro railway to Rozelle (i.e. nowhere) will cost at least $2 billion more than planned (i.e. up to $7 billion) reinforces doubts about what this rail link is for, and why the NSW government is so keen to pursue it despite refusal by Infrastructure Australia and the federal government to fund it.

According to a public transport lobby group, EcoTransit, it's the brainchild a group of bureaucrats within the state government who want to thwart and thereby "discipline" Sydney's CityRail by setting up an alternative private, non-union network.

In effect a Thatcherite political experiment. Details here.

If only we had more citizens like John.

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