A Sorry Mess of Motor Cars

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                 A Sorry Mess of
                 Motor Cars
                  'Under the present dispensation we have sold our urban birthright
                 for a sorry mess of motor cars. As poor a bargain as Esau's
                 pottage . . . By allowing mass transportation to deteriorate and by
                 building expressways out of the city and parking garages within, in
                 order to encourage the maximum use of the private car, our highway
                 engineers and city planners have helped to destroy the living tissue of
                 the city and to limit the possibilities of creating a larger urban
                 organism on a regional scale.'
                                               Lewis Mumford The City in History

                     The idea of a road following Gardiner's Creek had been
lurking in the communal imagination since the late 1920s, when council first
toyed with the possibility of a water-hugging 'boulevard'. Although the Town
Planning Commission's 1929 plan, which provided for a road by the creek, most
likely intended a more business-like facility, what the councillors envisaged was
probably something like the Kew example, with its blessed human scale,
whimsical meanderings determined by the contours of the existing hillocks, and
an air of redundancy that simply added to its charms. If the unemployed who
built the road had to sing for their suppers, there could perhaps be no more
poetically just way of doing so than making a road which had nowhere to go but
round the hills and back again. Their major task in Malvern — smoothing the
golf links from an expanse of barely touched swampland — was likewise an
enterprise that was going nowhere, except in a pleasantly diversionary
direction. It may have proved to be an environmental error in the long-term,
yet at the time it seemed both useful and aesthetic, and the revised landscape
certainly developed its own hybrid prettiness.
   A macadam pleasantry such as the one that wound its way inconsequentially
through Kew was not what the MMBW visualised in 1954 when, invested with
its new dignity as Melbourne's permanent planning authority, it produced a
program for the future of the metropolis. The network of recommended main
roads included one along Gardiner's Creek from Kooyong to Scotchman's
Creek, and land for the purpose was subsequently reserved in the city's first
planning scheme. In June 1958, the Malvern Advertiser approvingly described

244                                                 PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY

the opening section of this 'First Major Master Plan Project', which would
employ up to 300 men, absorb impressive amounts of steel and concrete and
'eventually be the main arterial road linking the south-eastern suburbs directly
with the city*. As it inched its way forward, it would 'progressively provide
relief. There was an undertone of pride that Malvern was to play a star role in
the great highway strategy, and no hint of the very different drama that was to
unfold. Despite the acquiescence, awareness that protective measures should be
taken surfaced in 1962 when Malvern Council supported Hawthorn's sugges-
tion for a conference to fashion 'a co-ordinated scheme of planning and develop-
ment of the Gardiner Valley . . . to ensure that no unnecessary encroachments
are made into land provided as public open space'. Soon after, the town clerk
was instructed to prepare a statement outlining Malvern's desire to secure a
realignment of the projected freeway to achieve 'the minimum of disturbance to
public and private property'.
   The development of a freeway system in imitation of those of other western
countries was widely regarded as the mark of an acceptably progressive society;
any debits were believed to be far outweighed by the benefits, just as any
individual sacrifices were a mere drop of acid in the brew of the general good.
For Australia, which suffered a material time-lag along with its cultural cringe,
the urge to catch up was perceived as a duty as well as a desirability. However,
when the Metropolitan Transportation Study was commissioned in 1964, the
community and municipalities who were to be the major casualties of the
planners' passion for laying concrete tentacles across the landscape could hardly
have been aware at the imaginative level of the massive dislocation being
concocted — even if they perceived intellectually that the implications were
   The lie of the land became abundantly clear when the report was released in
1969. For Malvern, lying comfortably oblivious between the inner suburbs and
outer development, the consequences were to be widespread and disruptive.
The South Eastern Freeway, which opened in May 1970, would diverge at Glen
Iris to join the Healesville Freeway, while the Mulgrave Freeway would extend
into Malvern, diverting through East Malvern to join the proposed city ring
road (abandoned in 1971) and the West Gate Freeway. It looked as if some
irresistible process was about to intrude into people's lives, and maps began to
be anxiously scrutinised to determine whether one's house was on the brink of
destruction, or doomed to occupy a devastating new situation on the edge of a
   Even so, the general reaction initially was surprisingly muted, and there was
no outcry about the study's evident deficiencies in terms of practicalities or its
questionable philosophical assumptions. Although individuals caught in the
likely path of the juggernaut had to cope with unforeseen uncertainty in their
lives, Malvern itself was slow to react to its new status as freeway city and to the
hiatus in the report about the indeterminacy of the area between the South
Eastern and Mulgrave Freeways.
   By 1972, the Country Roads Board (CRB), in its capacity as a construction
authority with responsibility for roads that linked city and country, as well as
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS                                                      245

those traversing open space, announced its intention of extending the Mulgrave
Freeway to Waverley Road. This sudden move stimulated a vigorous response
from residents and council who demanded a holding operation until a plan to
solve all traffic problems was prepared. At the same time, inner-suburban
opposition to the entirety of the board's freeway proposals had reached a pitch
of intensity, and the ALP — in a perhaps not entirely disinterested spirit — had
been converted to the cause. Possibly because it was by nature conservative and
had been relatively unmolested by Big Brother government, Malvern was not
prepared to commit itself to a request from state opposition leader, Clyde
Holding, for support for a parliamentary motion demanding suspension of all
freeway works. Nor did any Malvern residents' group align itself with the
Committee for Urban Action, a union of fourteen inner-suburban associations
formed in 1967, initially to oppose the activities of the Victorian Housing Com-
mission, then moving to co-ordinate anti-freeway agitation. This unwillingness
on the part of council or residents to join the wider protest had definite
overtones of separatist complacency.
   ALP policy was probably dictated partly by genuine belief and partly by
awareness of the vote-catching potential of the anti-freeway stance in the
feverish, radicalised climate of the times, which seemed able to afford the luxury
of grass-roots impertinence. However, Holding was quick to say his party's
efforts were for Labor's traditional economically and politically weak supporters,
not middle-class parvenus. Given that the first acts of dismemberment were
taking place in the suburbs on the city's fringe, he was pictured on a solicitous
inspection tour in Collingwood, accompanied by Ted Innes, the ALP's 1972
federal candidate for Melbourne, who was reported in the Melbourne Times as
saying: 'Conservative governments in Victoria have traditionally starved public
transport in the interests of their friends in the private transport sector. We must
ensure that extended federal assistance is not re-directed to the further benefit of
the Melbourne business interests'. The opposition's evident sincerity impressed
at least one budding activist to consider the Chadstone area: 'I was, in part,
motivated by the struggle of the residents of Fitzroy and Collingwood . . . where
I heard Steve Crabb announce "no more radial freeways" '. If politicians had to
eat their words, most would die of indigestion.
  In 1973, public hostility to the government's freeway policy peaked, and
Malvern was swept into the mood. Deputy Premier Lindsay Thompson called
for a month's moratorium to give local groups an opportunity to frame the
grounds of their dispute, and over a thousand residents attended meetings
demanding a cessation of freeway work until comprehensive solutions to the
chaotic situation were evolved. Signs of a thrust towards a united response from
the southern suburbs appeared when Malvern decided to combine with six
other councils to work out a program of 'joint opposition to freeway planning
. . . undertaken . . . without the councils concerned being consulted'. It was,
unfortunately, a still-born alignment; nor was any move made to associate with
the United Melbourne Freeway Action Group. The middle-suburban councils
lapsed into the self-interest that was so helpful to the strategists in the planning
area. Citizens of these municipalities were likewise fragmented; no groups
246                                                PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY

representing them belonged to the Committee for Urban Action which
embodied the hope of meaningful, concerted dissent.
   Within Malvern's boundaries, construction of the Mulgrave Freeway through
'any highly developed urban area', without an overall appraisal of the system
and presentation of proof that its extension was 'essential to Melbourne's
Transport system', was condemned. Further, councils should be informed of
any proposals and involved in preliminary discussions. They were 'deeply
shocked . . . 320 homes would be razed and at least a further 570 homes could
be rendered useless as quality homes . . . such a project would create such
disturbance . . . that substantial urban re-development would be required'.
Local parliamentarians were enjoined 'to protect the City of Malvern', and the
Malvern Anti Freeway Association (MAFA), the first resident action group
spawned by the controversy, was given council backing in its dissenting
activities. The assurance from the Minister of Local Government that plans for
the section to Waverley Road had been shelved and that 'no commitment
whatever to extend the freeway west of Warrigal Road' existed was rejected as
showing 'complete disregard' for Malvern's position. The real pathos was
crystallised in the simplicity of a potentially dispossessed resident's comment:
'You come thinking you are going to live and die in this place and see what
   In March 1973, the premier, Dick Hamer, capitulated to the wider protest
movement, which had accumulated great professional expertise and shown itself
prepared to use direct action, and announced that certain freeways would not
proceed. The determination of the opponents was shown in documents such as
the Carlton Association's report 'Freeway Crisis' (March 1972), which high-
lighted inconsistencies of procedure both within and between the CRB and the
MMBW and presented a well-argued and pugnacious case for rethinking the
authorities' entire strategies: 'planning and construction of freeways in the inner
areas is un-coordinated, and the responsibilities are not clearly allocated. The
effects of this are likely to be catastrophic in terms of social disruption and the
eventual waste of public money'. Elsewhere, the government was under heavy
fire for its housing policy, which included the drastic remedy of displacing inner
suburban residents in the name of urban renewal (a term substituted for the by
now unacceptable 'slum reclamation' tag) and selling their plots to private
developers. Without the benefit of tactical cunning and expert knowledge, the
poor had been all too easy to dislodge until they were swept into the radicalisa-
tion of a section of the professional middle class. Moreover, the government was
probably suffering the process of internal dissolution that comes to oligarchies
who over-stay their psychically healthy tenure in power. The malaise showed in
signs of generalised intellectual atrophy and the maladroit flounderings of
several ministers.
   Despite the government's symptoms of decline, there remained the un-
shiftable mentality of politicians and bureaucrats who operate consciously or
unconsciously according to the principle that they know what is best for their
constituency. Policy shifts dictated by the easy partnership of pragmatism and
opportunism often simply obscure fixed intentions that resurface after a lapse in
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS                                                     247

time or in slightly different guise. The truth about the political mind was so
sparse and so crude that it was often discounted, but not everyone was deceived.
Councillor Len Ninnis, a conspiracy theorist who believed that the CRB was
doggedly pursuing its freeway obsessions behind a smokescreen of bowing to
democratic pressures, blasted the retraction as a doubtful expedient, 'a political
decision without technical advice as to what freeways were not essential and
without indication of what public transport, if any, would be provided to take
their place'.
   Another more immediate factor existed to further stir any suspicions, for the
extension of the Mulgrave Freeway to the municipal border (leaving Malvern in
a traffic limbo between freeway pincers) was still intended, and the CRB
continued to purchase properties west of Warrigal Road, ostensibly for power
line alterations. The procedure had Machiavellian overtones that suggested
some hidden plot, especially when the legality of the process was queried and no
assurance that purchases would cease was forthcoming. The CRB and its
successor, the Road Construction Authority (RCA), were later criticised for
their 'continuous reluctance . . . to disclose to the public any more than was
specifically required' and a failure to address the problem of replacing the
valley's 'uninterrupted chain of sporting and recreational areas'.
   Council sought reassurance from the premier that the board harboured no
malign predeterminations, but was outraged when a deputation was refused and
was hardly mollified by being permitted to twice put their case to the Minister
for Local Government, who quite reasonably found the positions of Malvern
and Waverley irreconcilable. Malvern's opposition would continue until
concrete plans were produced to resolve the expected tangle at the freeway's
end. When tenders for the Waverley-Oakleigh section closed at the end of 1973,
it was observed that no alterations had been made to the freeway's design;
'naturally', said Councillor Hammond, with surprising if ironic mildness, 'this
causes us to be suspicious of the Board's claim that it has no intention of
proceeding into Malvern'.
   Several measures were taken in an attempt to allay the reasonable apprehen-
sion that CRB planners, ideologically predisposed to the freeway solution and
entrenched in 'isolated silence' behind their impervious facade, were quietly
intent on filling out as much of their grand design as was politically feasible: a
request for a deputation to the premier — this time successful — who was
confident that council would be consulted on further planning, and securing
legal advice on the possibility of restraining additional purchases of Malvern
properties. A list of short-term proposals to improve traffic flow through
Malvern was to be drawn up, yet at the same time, in a stunningly contrary
move, the planners requested a study (the Gardiner's Creek Valley Study) of the
effects of building a road along the valley. M A F A claimed that properties were
still being acquired, and letters to Transport Minister Ray Meagher, who had
recently been shifted crab-wise from the Housing Ministry where he had
suffered the indignity of having his effigy burnt outside his own office, were
unanswered. In October, Malvern, Hawthorn and Camberwell applied
fruitlessly for a rezoning of the area to delete the freeway reservation, and the
248                                                     PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY

citizens of the municipalities undertook their first walk of pilgrimage along the
creek banks. An outraged resident commented in the Malvern News Sheet on
the horrible effects of 'the "grindstone" of urbanism, reducing all remnants of
pictorial rural settings down to the concrete level. Work has just been completed
on that very thing just east of Warrigal Road Chadstone. I suppose u they" are
happy with the result!'.
   The matter went into uneasy abeyance for about twelve months when it was
revealed that 'Melbourne's controversial system of freeways — supposedly killed
. . . in 1973 — is far from dead . . . The CRB is . . . playing with a giant jigsaw'
and hapless Malvern was at the centre. In a News Sheet cartoon, the city was
winsomely pictured as 'Maid Malvern' brought to her knees and looking
affrighted, outstretched hands warding off two freeway dragons with the plain-
tive cry 'Where, Oh where, art thou, Saint George?'. Even though the CRB had
published its promised report on temporary traffic control measures in October
1975, it also asked councils to back an investigation into the implications of
constructing an 'arterial road' (Arterial Road Link; ARL) through the valley
along the reservation in the original planning scheme. The new term — a
euphemism for a four rather than six lane connection — was rapidly dubbed 'a
Clayton's freeway' by hostile residents. The quip borrowed the name of a much
advertised, sophisticated soft drink that was currently being promoted as a
pleasing, harmless substitute for alcohol. Malvern insisted that the Gardiner's
Creek Valley Study, to be conducted by an independent chairman and repre-
sentatives of the relevant government departments, planning authorities and
involved councils, should include a 'no build' option.
   Apart from the ominous possibilities in the board's revived interest in the
valley, with the relentless build-up of traffic, the general situation had deter-
iorated; the metallic snarls, toxic fumes and thunder of hurtling trucks had
intensified to the point of despair. The profile of the suburban landscape had
altered so fundamentally that a contemporary, looking at old photographs of
Malvern, might well have believed that she was looking at another planet.
There were traffic-less streets and the odd well-dimensioned villa with a well-
proportioned automobile poised in the drive before the front entrance, the
whole overlaid by drowsy emptiness and a piercing sense of distance.
   Towards the end of 1976, a petition, with over four thousand signatures and
representing at least ten thousand residents (many of whom favoured the 'no
build' outcome) was tabled in council calling for immediate action to solve
traffic congestion. Nervousness about the impartiality of CRB intentions
persisted and was hardly assuaged when yet another Minister of Transport
issued the by now rather dog-eared portfolio of assurances that no link would be
made until the study's experts had examined all aspects of its ramifications.
Malvern steeled itself for — as the city engineer described it — its 'year of
  Consideration of the issues involved will call for calm thinking and considerable
  tolerance of other points of view . . . everyone cannot be satisfied with the result . . .
  some people will suffer, while others will benefit. It is imperative that the final
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS                                                          249

  strategy adopted will result in community and social benefits that outweigh the social
  costs and disruptions that some will suffer.
     The outcome of this exercise will be the most important planning decision ever
  likely to be taken, in so far as the long term effects on the City of Malvern are

He was complimentary about the study's commitment to comprehensiveness,
sensitivity and fairness, and the thoroughness of its consultative and review
procedures. It might perhaps have been asked whether his description of its
principal objective — 'to determine whether needs can be met for transport,
recreation and drainage . . . in a manner which is compatible each with the
other and with the aspirations of the community' — was self-defeating. This
philosophical confusion was picked up by John Burke of the Malvern Learning
Exchange who asked 'What is the problem the study is investigating? Is it
through-traffic on Malvern residential streets; difficulties of longer distance
commuters; potential access to the Westgate Bridge; or something else . . . the
relevance of suggested solutions will vary depending on the problem'. The point
was so obvious that, like several other bare-faced realities, it was easily
  The complicated mechanisms of the valley study were explained at a public
meeting in May 1977 and elaborated by its manager in a supplement to the
News Sheet. He indicated that over 1600 mail cards had been returned and
many letters, ranging from 'lengthy submissions . . . to short notes' and
embracing the gamut of opinion, had been received. Several ominous indicators
in his report may well have been ignored at the time. The paragraphs headed
'Creek not to be ignored by study' (a curious heading in itself) focussed primarily
on problems of flood control and outlined the 'factors . . . to be taken into
account' in deciding how best to increase the creek's capacity to handle
excessive flows: 'they . . . provide an insight into the reasons why the . . . Study
is being carried out, and why members of the public are being asked to
volunteer their ideas'. The statement was a non sequitur, the oddity of which was
deepened by the failure to mention the road that might dominate the landscape.
'The Vital Information Gathering Programme' — data relating to 'the existing
physical and social environment', traffic counts, a wind tower and equipment to
measure noise levels, surveys of recreation areas and clubs, group discussions
and questionnaires, a mobile information centre, bulletins — sounded more like
a genuine, perhaps over-blown, attempt to canvass all possibilities and to be
open-minded about the outcome. Nevertheless, there was the proviso that
study-team recommendations would not automatically be adhered to; the
steering committee, which was dominated by the bureaucracy, was empowered
with final decision-making.
  Some pessimistic voices, already suffused with the tone of mourning, were
  No alternatives are being considered or will be considered. The decision was made
  years ago, and the power of the CRB is quite inflexible. This is government by
250                                                   PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY

  stealth. One day all the trees will be cut down and the bulldozers will move in.
  Machines will have won, and Man . . . will have to retreat further into loneliness and

The writer of this letter, who was to suffer the worst possible individual
outcome, the loss of her home, pointed out that freeways often acted as a
magnet for traffic without relieving existing roads. This belief seemed to be
confirmed later when the traffic model devised by the study predicted that,
despite the funnelling of much additional traffic on to a link, levels on other
roads would stay at 1977 levels. In her view, there was a dreadful human cost to
add to the monetary burden, for they 'divide the communities through which
they pass and altogether have a depressing effect on the environment'.
   Her insight was correct; divisions immediately began to surface, as competing
viewpoints fought for attention and assorted lobby groups formed. Malvern was
like a sick person, one contender claimed, needing the life-giving infusion of the
freeway drug. Contrarily, there was 'an acute sickness in the transport situation
facing Melbourne', and Malvern's predicament was part of the 'general problem
of an inadequate public transport system'. More drastically, the impasse was the
inevitable result of parasitic dependency on 'that devouring monster we have
created', the car. Understandably, the unfortunate residents of streets where
cars disgorged from the freeway or the main roads (dubbed 'pseudo-freeways' by
some agitators) were inclined to see a flag of relief in the dubious freeway
solution; just as those whose houses lay defencelessly on its possible route were
likely to adopt a strongly rejecting stance. The car-using public — almost
everyone — were also involved as victims of the choking queues that were
common at major intersections. The disabling frustrations endured by motorists
were a serious matter, but they could be humorously exploited, as they were in
the amusing ballad 'Never Turn Right at Burke Road, Malvern':
  I knew a man called Stanley
    a tough kinda guy
  He'd fought in both the wars you know
    I'd never seen him cry.
  Last I saw of old Stanley
    He'd gone to cut his hair
  He was turning right at Burke Road Malvern
    and he's probably still there.

And he may well have both cried and expired at that pyre of cars.
  Watching from the front line, some residents were brutally sharp in exposing
the tautological gobbledygook of the planners' claim that 'Planning is for
  We read in the CRB News last year that 'the purpose of transportation is civilization
  itself and we gained the impression that the CRB believes that good roads enable
  people to live somewhere else. We draw some consolation from this in that . . . we
  will ourselves be able to use [roads] to go somewhere else and, provided that we can
  afford to keep moving, we will remain civilised . . . Provided that we could get there,
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS                                                      251

   we too could have our share. The problem is not what route to take but from where
   to start.

As if that intellectual confusion were not bad enough, the situation was
exacerbated by the often counter-productive thrusts of the two major
responsible authorities and the failure pointed out in the Carlton Association's
1972 document: 'freeway planning in . . . metropolitan Melbourne is isolated
from other forms of forward planning'.
   Opponents of the link were not simply negative, and yet most of their
suggestions for alternatives, down-to-earth though they were, required a shift of
attitude that made them seem mischievously, if not scandalously impractical —
like whisperings from an unreal realm. They mainly centred on restraining use
of the private car through measures such as inflating the cost of petrol and
registration to discouraging levels, legislating to enforce its more economic use,
encouraging the use of bicycles and revitalising the public transport system.
Apart from requiring a perhaps unthinkable change in public opinion, they
entailed a clash with the formidable alliance of oil companies and the motor
industry and the gaggle of their dependencies, which probably instantly
cancelled out any chance of success. Contributing to the discussion in Malvern,
Dr D F Weston pointed out another problem: 'Most of our Statutory
Authorites make the serious error of planning and building for unrestricted
growths in the demand for their "product" '. Humanity has often had to pay
dearly for the failure of imagination in many of its members to perceive that
apparently immutable patterns can be changed by the will to try different
   Even though pessimism and scepticism were widespread, either on the surface
or buried beneath frantic hopes, the debate was vigorously elaborated. In the
next few years, about a dozen resident action groups were formed in Malvern to
prosecute various viewpoints on traffic matters, pre-eminently the proposed
freeway link. The Gardiner's Creek Valley Association (GCVA), an alignment
of residents from the three municipalities that shared the creek, was established
in early 1977 with a focus on preserving the valley's tarnished, yet peaceful clime
and opening up council's deliberative procedures. In October that year, the
South Eastern Ratepayers' Alliance (SERA) met to condemn the concept of a
link road and to repudiate the levels of noise and pollution accepted by the
board. The group's convenor, Wal Sheridan, condemned the CRB's 'Nelson-
like determination to ignore reality' and pointed out its inconsistency in
pursuing the freeway concept, when its own chief engineer had recently told a
world conference of road authorities that the freeway solution had been
invalidated by the fierceness of resident opposition. He also quoted British
research that suggested that, if the true cost of such roads, financial and social,
were assessed, 'few if any new urban motorways would be built'. The place for
freeways was beyond the city, in the country, where they would bridge space
and facilitate long-distance travel. These two groups were to be followed in the
field by several others, some vehemently in favour of the link, some adamantly
252                                                 PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY

opposed, a few teetering in an ambivalent position; and all subject to the blasts
of fortune.
   From 14 March to 6 April 1978, copies of the Gardiner's Creek Valley Study
report were displayed in the town halls of Malvern, Camberwell and Hawthorn,
and residents were given until the end date to make submissions. To the horror
of Malvern people, the study incorporated two possible routes, one along the
old 1950s reservation (CI), the second through Malvern's parklands (C3). The
repercussions of the latter, which was preferred by the study, although not
recommended by the Waterways Environs Study Team, were massive: some 338
houses and 32.9 hectares (twenty per cent of the city's total open space) would
go. The loss of parkland involved three ovals, sixteen tennis courts, one club-
house, three pavilions, one picnic ground, five cricket pitches, five golf-course
holes, three playgrounds, one bowling green and one BMX track. The impact
on the remaining fields was severe: years of disruption, noise, pollution and
difficulty of access to the truncated valley. Nor did the question of fulfilling the
promise to replace open space offer much comfort, for it was assessed that, even
if all proposed replacement areas were included, only twenty-six hectares could
be obtained, half of them in Malvern. The whole project seemed enough to
induce a fortress mentality and drive people into the sanctuary of their own
homes — if they were able to retain them. It also cancelled any possibility of a
united front between Malvern and Camberwell.
   Malvern was given little time to respond to this horrifying new scenario.
Decision on the choice of route would be made four days after the consultative
channels were closed. The timing suggested that public submissions were
unlikely to affect the outcome, but the democratic facade was given a touch of
paint in the provision of three months for comment after the planning scheme
had been amended to legitimatise the C3 line.
   Comment there certainly was. Council repudiated the C3 and established a
sub-committee to prepare a detailed report for submission to state cabinet.
There was, said its chairperson, Councillor Morrow, 'a point where residents
have only the council to back them . . . if their council doesn't do it then they
have nobody in their court at all. That time has come for Malvern to put its
residents first'. A G C V A rally derided the study as 'a one million dollar cynical'
affront, and Labor politicians were quick to seize the red rag to inflame the
Liberal bull. Member for Oakleigh, Race Mathews, castigated the study as 'a
heartless, irresponsible exercise . . . In all probability these people are being
made to suffer for a freeway which will never be built'. However, ALP ranks
were somewhat disorganised, and shadow Minister for Transport Steve Crabb
had to deny a statement from the party's aspiring candidate for Malvern that
the CI route would be supported. Party policy rejected both alternatives,
because a link would build up 'irresistible pressure' for a tunnel under the
Domain, and that was unthinkable. By comparison with the Labor Party,
which only had to restrain a few unthinking responses, the Liberal Party was in
deep trouble. When the Minister for Local Government Alan Hunt, who was
also under attack in the inner suburbs where obduracy was unlikely to be
electorally harmful, closed the debate on the grounds that 'a clear decision has
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS                                                       253

been made', one embittered resident response was 'I don't think there is anyone
living along the C3 route who will vote Liberal again'.
   The sense of outrage and betrayal was undermining, but even more destruc-
tive forces were at work. Immediately after the C3 possibility had been made
public, three hundred residents whose homes were under threat of demolition
had amassed a petition of protest. Nevertheless, feelings of powerlessness and
hopelessness soon set in, and, when a questionnaire was distributed among
those whose residences were on the edge of the proposed freeway, only half
replied: most of them wanted their houses acquired. There was also a wide-
spread conviction that, as the Southern Cross put it, the decision was 'an almost
foregone conclusion . . . Lengths of freeway lie scattered over the urban area,
like pieces of hose, waiting to be connected'. Was the study exercise, then,
simply an expensive subterfuge?
   The factionalisation of the community was perhaps the heaviest price.
'Nothing divides like a freeway', the Southern Cross announced. 'Just as the
concrete and bitumen splits the city physically, it divides the community in
spirit.' As the drama developed, the paper's detached view became cynical as
well as philosophical: 'The authorities, they say, just love little citizens' groups.
The scenario of public meetings, giving the residents their say, is a wonderful
public relations exercise and conveniently lacks impact'. Councillor Ninnis, a
consistent opponent of freeways as 'the shortest distance between two bottle-
necks', bitterly accused the government of 'a very clever confidence trick . . . It
took their minds off the fact whether the freeway was necessary or not — they
got everybody fighting'. Perhaps part of the explanation for the seemingly
irretrievable situation lay closer to home, as some correspondents to the News
Sheet suggested. 'Residents of Malvern will pay dearly for the pro-freeway stance
of the majority of their local councillors', wrote one. Or was the council simply
bending with the wind? 'It is indeed regrettable now, that a vehement pro-
freeway stance was established in Malvern well before the full implications of a
link were publicised', was a response that drove to the heart of the matter,
implicating citizens as well as councillors.
   Fatalistic acceptance was not the reaction of some stalwarts. The News Sheet,
which provided a conscientious forum for canvassing issues and opinions,
published a segment alarmingly entitled 'Malvern Under Siege', which
comprised contributions from two main residents' groups, SERA and the Anti
C3 Action Group (ACTAG). The former's outline for the future was an
Orwellian nightmare in which Malvern's existence as a physical entity was
threatened by 'the CRB Land Grab' and as a civic unit by the recent revival of
the hoary old idea (described in 1915 as 'that lopsided old mongrel' and
periodically condemned thereafter) of amalgamating smaller councils. It was
thus in danger of being reduced to 'an easy prey to the five encircling
municipalities'. Many of its citizens were pictured as ousted from their homes,
undermined by pollution, and denied just compensation. Meanwhile, the whole
community was to be further abused by a greedy car industry, deprived of its
recreational places, impoverished by revenue losses and subjected to 'the
dispersion of our people . . . These encroachments would deny our old and
254                                                    PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY

young alike the advantages so vital for the full enjoyment of modern life'. It
sounded like the fate of the tribes of Israel directed by Big Brother, and yet it was
a valid, if over-heated response. Resting its certitude of success rather forlornly
on the fact that its case was 'based on the justice of previous Government
decisions', A C T AG's contribution made many of the same points with one
supreme and perhaps fatal difference: it was 'not opposed in principle to a
  Perhaps the only chance of an equitable outcome was a united front, and that
seemed illusory, for Malvern's resident movement was in general developing in a
fatally factionalised, dispersed, over-polite and under-skilled way. Although
many adept, tenacious and enlightened individuals were involved, no single
group could claim to represent the bulk of the community, to express its identity
and to act on behalf of its weaker members as had, for instance, the East
Melbourne, Carlton and Fitzroy Associations. Besides, by the time Malvern was
experiencing the protest ferment, the heat had gone out of the action elsewhere,
removing an imponderable, probably vital element of moral support.
   SERA's article, particularly the table that purported to show the houses that
had been or were under threat, was so inflammatory that the News Sheet was
constrained to ask for a spectrum of responses. The official road-making and
planning quarters declined to comment. As an affected party, Lindsay
Thompson, whose house was alongside the bulldozer's path, diverted the matter
to his parliamentary colleagues, who concentrated on the issue of recompensing
the victims. The Liberal Party was committed to 'the principle that damage
caused to the individual in the course of providing benefits for the community
will be compensated', but the statement ignored one reality. While a formula
had been constructed to discharge financial responsibility to those whose
houses were to be blitzed, no allowance had been made to repay those who were
confronted with the lingering fate of overlooking the freeway. The council
rejected the major thrust of the article.
  Asked to comment, the study manager, Alan Morton, dismissed SERA's
statements as extravagant and inaccurate and was predictably unabashed by
any challenge to the inquiry's reliability and impartiality. It had tried 'to
harmonize the conflicting needs of home owners, road users, recreationists and
those who use Gardiner's Creek either as a source of visual enjoyment or simply
as a drain'. The questions of whether those 'conflicting needs' had ever been
reconcilable, or why people — presumably industrialists and public authorities
— who exploited the creek as a repository for effluent were acceptable
petitioners were not addressed. His general principles were perhaps unarguable.
Accustomed to the car, people were unprepared 'to fiddle about with public
transport', while Malvern had to shoulder its share of the metropolitan
consequences. It was
  not an island. Its residents use freeways in other suburbs and municipalities and the
  new freeway will benefit users from other areas as well as the citizens of Malvern . . .
  To argue that a planning decision made 25 years ago . . . should never be changed,
  suggests a principle which would be hard to sustain in human affairs.
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS                                                    255

Of course, the Malvernian was a Melbournian, with all the problems and
benefits that ambiguous status entailed; and of course the principle of fixity in
decision-making was a figment that defied rationality and often even compas-
sion. As personal exoneration, Morton said that his own residence lay near the
proposed Healesville Freeway; he would like that road to be built immediately.
   Indeed, Malvern was not an island, although the poet who donated the
phrase to the cultural consciousness would have been surprised at the shift of his
message. A n d yet it was islanded with its own very personal problem of how to
live through the inevitable stress and conflict that was to be generated by the
enormous disruption of building a freeway. Apart from the financial costs and
the dislocation of services, there was the personal tragedy for dispossessed
citizens and the multiple fractures in spirit that challenged the existence of the
community in the family sense. There was also the loss of faith in the capacity of
urban man to retain the bonds of connection with the well-spring of being,
linked not with a freeway but with the sources of life.
   By the early 1980s, a destructive momentum had set in. Malvern Council,
SERA and the Gascoigne Estate Group (GEG) preferred the CI route, the
G C V A remained loyal to its 'no build' position, while Camberwell naturally
favoured the C3 option. It seemed as if the ancient principle of divide and rule
had come irresistibly into operation. Council's appeal to the minister for
retention of the old reservation was rejected, and the state government's
promise that lost open space would be replaced began to look fragile when the
hoped-for land of Holmesglen Constructions was proposed to be sold to private
interests in what Councillor Morrow described as a 'totally unacceptable'
decision. This disappointment was partly offset by official acceptance of
'Victoria's first urban recreational forest' on the Outer Circle Railway Reserve,
which provided for the nostalgic reintroduction of pre-settlement vegetation as
well as catering for more contemporary visualisations. Of course, one possible, if
paranoid, interpretation of this concession was that it functioned as a diversion
from the more preoccupying issue of the freeway.
  However, energy in that direction was not lacking. SERA established a co-
operative trust fund to stop the CRB from relocating the route and further
announced that it intended taking legal action to prevent purchase of thirty-two
houses that were protected by the Town Planning Acty even though many of the
owners in the threatened area had succumbed and wanted their homes
acquired. Their orbit of action had probably been reduced to attempting to
dispose of their properties before the collapse of values gathered strength.
According to Race Mathews, the decline was already seriously afflicting those
on the receiving end of 'planning blight'.
  Council was meanwhile pre-occupied with other traffic matters, including a
confrontation with Caulfield as to which suburb should suffer most from the
widening of Dandenong Road (a conflict that generated a new surge of resident
action). Moreover, it was in the process of instituting the Malvern Traffic Study,
which had been generated by a series of neighbourhood studies to devise
effective measures for enhancing residential amenity in Malvern's car-choked
256                                                   PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY

side streets (it also addressed main road issues). Subjected to ever more
shattering traffic levels, the benighted residents of Malvern and Waverley Roads
met with other sympathetic souls and impotently adopted a set of proposals to
relieve their plight. Other victims of the traffic menace in the streets near the
Malvern end of the South Eastern Freeway desperately requested closure of
their streets.
  In the background, the steering committee of the valley study was placidly
preparing an amendment to the planning scheme to provide for a reservation
wide enough to accommodate a six-lane freeway (four lanes initially), the design
of that swathe and 'the redesign of Gardiner's Creek'. Government assurances
that the outcome would not be as serious as portents seemed to indicate were
not assisted by some of its representatives. The Member for Burwood, Jeff
Kennett, was rebuked for offering the palliatives that the flow of traffic along the
valley might hopefully be so intense that pollution would be pushed elsewhere,
as if through a gigantic blow-pipe, alighting on innocents in the unwitting
beyond. Further, he claimed that pollution-affected people would be
recompensed. His rather airy reply to the Malvern News Sheet almost seemed to
blow him away entirely:
  [The link] is obviously not going to please all, but it must be remembered that it has
  been the subject of the greatest community participation . . . While quite obviously
  everyone in the community is allowed to make such recommendations and
  suggestions, it is unlikely that the recommended course for the Link will vary . . .
  One can only hope that once this Link is constructed those who may be adversely
  affected will be fully protected and compensated.

It was a heedless statement of the reality behind the politics of hope.
   All might have seemed lost in a welter of factionalised politics, official
obduracy, bland assurances, competing diversions and sheer cacophony when
suddenly there appeared a 'glimmer of hope in [the] freeway wrangle'. At the
hearing of objections to the C3 route in mid 1980 by an independent panel on
behalf of the MMBW, Malvern Council, A C T A G , other major resident groups
and individual objectors strongly supported the 'cut and cover tunnel' solution
that had been proposed by the formidably well-informed Gang of Four. The
quartet with the brilliantly facetious name comprised a doctor, two chemists
and an engineer, who had gone to breathtaking lengths to prove the viability,
commonsense and public-spiritedness of their proposal, amassing evidence on
tunnel-building from European sources and hiring a consulting engineer and
quantity surveyor to supply a cross-section of a tunnel and preliminary costings.
One of the group's spokesmen, Tom Tyrer, claimed that any extra cost in the
scheme (a not inconsiderable $60 million) would be partly offset by the elim-
ination of five flyovers and reduction in property acquisitions. Moreover,
consideration of environmental factors would tip the balance in favour of a
tunnel. It seemed, in many quarters, like a heaven-sent opportunity to cut
through the competing cross-currents.
   The MMBW overruled the panel hearing the 1800 objections to the proposed
amendment in December, informing objectors of the decision by circular letter
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS                                                     257

and failing to state grounds for the dismissal. They even neglected to supply a
transcript of proceedings. However, in early 1981, the government, with an
election in the offing, agreed to commission an independent consultant to look
at the option of a tunnel between Burke and Waverley Roads and an environ-
mental impact study on the C3 route. It might have been thought that the latter
had been covered by the costly valley study. Although it seemed that major
concessions had been achieved, unease was caused by the conviction that 'the
CRB is now stifling resident and Council input' into the feasibility study and
was deepened when the board produced a brief that some interpreted as being
biased against the tunnel concept. When the final report was released in March
 1982, proponents of a tunnel claimed that the bureaucratic coup de grace was the
wide publicity given to deliberately inflated costs, with a consequent decline in
public support for the proposal. Others would aver that the price of that
solution, as estimated by its experts, would blow out like a budget deficit.
   The outcome of both those investigations seemed irrelevant when a Labor
government, whose anti-freeway policy was one of its proudest gestures towards
democratic participation and consideration of sane alternatives, was elected. In
April 1982, a decision to scrap the link was announced. It was, said Transport
Minister Crabb, 'unlikely in the foreseeable future'; improvement of the existing
road system would be Labor's way of tackling the traffic dilemma. Shortly
afterwards, he announced measures to improve traffic conditions in the no
man's land between the two freeways. This might have seemed to settle the
matter, but it ignored the fact that the new government had retained its options
by deleting the CI route and establishing the C3 reservation. The bureaucracy
and government may well have been marking time until the natural tendency to
baulk at delays and doubt about the untried devices proposed to deal with the
chaos had destabilised the situation so irreversibly that their own intentions
would seem benign. Even though the attempt to gain an alternative to the link
had really been lost, Malvern entered its most bitter period of community
disunity, with accusations of bad faith and self-interest thick in the air.
   The Gang of Four had continued to produce evidence on a variety of highly
technical matters. However, Tom Tyrer was subjected to an abusive attack for
his offer to provide expert assistance to relieve the demoralised residents along
Malvern's 'pseudo freeways': '[it] makes me suspect he has been building a
Trojan Horse. Who needs enemies when you have friends like Mr Tyrer'. The
accusation was so gratuitous that it brought forth several defenders. A C T AG's
chairman had meanwhile grasped the straw of claiming that his group's position
had been vindicated by the government's decision to order a tunnel feasibility
study. The G C V A , whose advocacy of excluding a road entirely from the valley
had been thwarted, was left juggling its balls of principle and continuing anti-
freeway opposition with its capacity for well-organised dissent.
   Another group, the Traffic Action Group (TAG; funnily enough its
abbreviated title was the same as that of the defunct Malvern Theatre
Appreciation Group), had entered the competition for the microphone and the
prize of capitalising on the politics of disillusion: 'Because you are no longer a
MAIN R O A D resident, but a resident on one of Malvern's PSEUDO-
258                                                       PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY

FREEWAYS, linking the South Eastern and Mulgrave REAL FREEWAYS . . .
LINK THE FREEWAYS NOW'. The delay in building a freeway was not their
only target; they were involved in other contentious traffic matters, such as
opposition to the trial street closures and speed restraints. Their tactics were not
always polite. Dictatorial, aggressive and legally well-qualified, they flummoxed
the grave, yet amiable souls who had thrown their hearts into community
politics, even claiming that an elitist coven, protected by their chosen
councillors, had the running at city hall. The complaint was made that they had
'invaded' a meeting at which traffic control measures in the Gascoigne Estate
were being discussed: 'The stench of sour grapes hung over the meeting as T A G
members tried to bully the Council into removing control devices which have
protected the lives and properties of Malvern residents'. One observer deplored
the appearance of this divisive group, which seemed to favour no restraints on
the tyranny of the car. They were, said another, ' "rag T A G and bobtail"
people', who were sabotaging efforts to discourage cars from using side streets
that often doubled as children's playgrounds. When Mayor Max Dumais ruled
that only residents of the estate should vote on the issue, former mayor A n n
Morrow left the meeting, and the affair degenerated into a farce that one of
TAG's leading lights, John Smith, dubbed — not very accurately — 'a Malvern
Tea Party'. He called for a referendum in central ward on the issue: 'a most
disturbing trend towards minority Government has appeared in Malvern'.
Helped by a few legal eagles, the silent majority was coming into its own.
   However, their intervention in the freeway question was their most masterful
action. Smith accused proponents of the anti-freeway case of 'blatant lies . . .
gross distortion of the real facts' and misusing 'their obvious talents' in pursuit
of 'their own selfish aims'. There was a barely disguised political innuendo in his
claim that the G C V A had 'gathered a strange collection of agitators to support
their cause'. His chief target was council, whose freeway policy 'disintegrates
every time whilst Councillors with their tunnel vision haggle over C I , C3 or
wherever . . . Until Council adopts a firm and irreversible stance on the freeway
link its extraordinary traffic policies will continue to generate division and
bitterness'. TAG's own tactics fuelled the fires of acrimony, and their attention
was drawn by the South Malvern Association to the real enemy, the state
government, with its 'NEGLECT OF ALL PUBLIC TRANSPORT'. T A G
should be congratulated, not castigated, wrote another of the spectators who
debated the faction's merits in the News Sheet for
   having done what the complacent majority has failed to do. In just six months TAG
   has had Council reverse its incredible freeway policy . . . The few opponents of TAG
   with their bullying tactics and hysterical arguments have forced Council to adopt
   traffic policies that have ruined this once beautiful city. Let there be no more of it! Let
   the majority be heard! Let the privileged minority no longer enjoy the benefactions of
   a weak and confused Council.

In the midst of the cloudy rhetoric and communal disintegration, two apostles
of hope announced the establishment of the Malvern Association, 'a great
initiative and possibly a first for Malvern, where diverse and widespread
71 A contemporary, looking at old photographs of Malvern, might well have believed that she
was looking at another planet: street without cars, c 1910.

72 'Surveyors will shortly be entering our property uto fix the line of the reservation
boundary". . . 1 ask you to imagine how you would react were you to receive some such
notification': houses destroyed for the Arterial Road Link, Malvern.
73 Rucked into mounds or gouged into raw furrows, besieged by earth-moving equipment and
stripped of all that is human: Arterial Road Link works.
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS                                                      259

resident groups have come together to achieve a vital consensus of opinion and
united action'. It made little impact and had come far too late.
   Public opinion was shifting irresistibly towards not merely accepting, but
promoting the fiercely contested link. Late in 1982, the Mayor of Malvern led a
deputation to Transport Minister Crabb requesting that priority should be
given to investigation of the southern corridor, including the freeway link, in the
 1983 transportation plan, and a large town hall meeting Voted almost to a man
and woman' in favour of the link. In May 1983, Crabb announced that a four-
lane arterial road would be constructed along the C3 alignment, and within
twelve months the amendment permitting the alternative reservation had been
gazetted and construction had begun, the minister assisting the process by being
photographed wielding a spade at a 'sod turning soiree'. Later in 1984, the mayor
reported a successful meeting concerning compensation, almost coinciding, in
an unplanned irony, with the formation of the Public Transport Party by 'a
group of concerned citizens who understand fully the interaction between public
transport and urban land use . . . Great benefit will flow to all urban dwellers,
jobs will be provided . . . and huge sums of money released for much needed
socially useful projects'. The comment might have been that it, like the Malvern
Association's attempt at a healing process, came decades too late.
   Putting a brave face on unresolved matters, in July 1983 Mayor Dumais
outlined Malvern's 'victories': ensuring the link (arterial road rather than
freeway size) and gaining the land for the Urban Forest as partial compensation.
'It may be that Council has lost the battle of the CI versus C3 route, but it will
not lose the war on the peace', he vowed, indulging a peculiar turn of phrase.
'The war on the peace' was the question of full compensation. However, there
was a real question as to whether replacement of all open space was possible,
and, as negotiations developed, the level of the government's financial offer to
Malvern became contentious. By 1986, SERA's Wally Sheridan was bitter:
'Malvern has been the all-time loser. All land taken has been Malvern land; all
1000 residents moved have been Malvern residents'. Assuming that compensa-
tion was being awarded at 1972 values, he calculated the total loss to the city at
a mind-boggling $116 million and pointed out that Malvern's humiliation was
accentuated by the RCA's (the CRB's reincarnation under Labor) requirement
that the city and its citizens should pay for items such as the reconstruction of
cricket nets. It certainly looked like adding insult to injury.
   For displaced individuals no degree of compensation might have seemed
adequate. 'The SE-Mulgrave "Clayton's" Freeway has resulted in a new home
for our family', wrote one woman, who had been transplanted to Fitzroy. 'Like
many others whose homes are to be destroyed, we will no longer be Malvern
residents.' The home represented an island of security where the individual
could ideally both manage personal destiny and express personality, a
repository of memories and hopes, a place of joys, dramas and reconciliations
that signified the connection between the one and the many. When Malvern's
first off-street car park was planned in 1959, the proposal to destroy three houses
to accommodate it led to such an outcry that the scheme was amended to
preserve them: 'Houses', the claim could be confidently made, 'are more
260                                                    PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY

important to the people than service stations and car parks'. By the mid 1980s,
such an appeal bore no chance of success. Writing to Premier John Cain Junior,
SERA presented a dossier on the 'tragic histories' of thirteen householders
affected by 'the choice of an unbelievable location for the construction of a
badly planned road link overpass' on one section of the road: it read like a
parish register of the dead. The stressful outcomes were multiplied elsewhere,
and the claim was made that 'despicable tactics' were employed to induce people
to capitulate — undermining small groups at a time, harassing telephone calls,
exploiting fear. Even for the unafraid, the reality was dreadful, wrote one who
quoted William Pitt on the sanctity of the home against superior powers:
'surveyors will shortly be entering our property "to fix the line of the reservation
boundary" . . . I ask you to imagine how you would react were you to receive
some such notification'.
   Some of the dispossessed had been in their houses for half a century and the
wrench was devastating, involuntarily creating images of despair and unfolding
into the bizarre: a woman crying and the bulldozer poised to overturn her house
as she was led away, another woman who lost her life's savings as the price of
replacing her dwelling, a man who died while his furniture was still in packing
cases, as he waited to finalise his move to Ballarat. Another woman, already
undermined by tragedy in her life, regularly rang the office of Race Mathews, to
convey her conviction that the freeway still would not go through her house
because the 'universal clock' disallowed that resolution. This image from a
disturbed subconscious perhaps locked into an archetype — deep in the heart of
the urban condition a natural rhythm had been fatally disrupted.
   Apart from those who lost houses, there were others who suffered a loss in the
value of their properties. A valuer hired by A C T AG assessed that 550 houses
had declined in value by fifteen per cent. Nor had compensation for the possible
effects of pollution been taken into account. Additionally, there was an
unforeseen, if temporary horror in the breakdown of standards of community
behaviour in the demolition area:
   The vandalism during the Australia Day long weekend [1987] by 12 year-olds,
    teenagers and adults, occurred at all hours of the day and night and was
    accompanied by alarming noise of breaking glass, windows, doors, floors and fittings
    — a constant threat to life and limb and to the peace of mind of remaining residents.

  Faith in the integrity of the political process had also been seriously shaken, as
the credibility of politicians of both parties was undermined by the unfolding of
events. In the early phases of the struggle, bitterness accrued to the Liberal
Party, who lost votes and left the ALP in the role of the white knight. After its
election to power in 1982, the turncoatism was all the ALP's; the white knight
had become the black king. Given that the party had laid historic claim to the
politics of principle, leaving the politics of pragmatism to the others, the lapse
was perhaps even less forgivable to some adherents. The abandonment of policy
was compounded by disregard of motions stipulating an improved link design
and proper compensation for victims that were passed at three consecutive state
ALP conferences. Nor could it be demonstrated that ministerial office was
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS                                                          261

conducted with any greater degree of respect for consultative procedures and
democratic proprieties under Labor. Some of those who had condemned the
freeway when out of office conveniently diverted correspondence on the matter
to the appropriate ministerial colleague, once they had to match words with
actions. In some eyes, it hardly seemed to matter which party was in power.
   By 1986, the occupant of the hot seat in the Transport Ministry was Tom
Roper, who came under fire from the Glen Iris branch of the party, with support
from the local community, for evading discussion and, as chairman of the C3
arterial road review committee, ignoring recommendations that aspects of the
link's design should be revised. He defended the level of compensation to
householders whose properties had been acquired and supported the RCA's
expenditure on noise barriers; the kind of amelioration recommended by the
branch was 'completely unrealistic . . . virtually unachievable' and prohibitively
expensive. Only a few members, representing the party's two major factions,
seemed prepared to pursue fully the substance of the conference resolutions. A
sympathetic response was also piously evinced by several Liberal parliamentar-
ians, and the shadow Minister for Transport, who criticised the government's
insensitivity and lack of consultation. The shadow was always in a position of
advantage, as former Labor shadows, now fully fleshed ministers, knew.
  Many of the activists were removed from the fray by no longer being Malvern
residents, but a few struggled on in the face of a seemingly unwinnable situation.
Tom Tyrer, whose tunnel scheme had momentarily united most of the major
pressure groups, only to be buried without obsequies in the tomb of expediency,
transferred his efforts to trying to achieve an improved design for the arterial
road to minimise its deleterious effects: a lower alignment to lessen visual
intrusion, effective noise barriers along the lines of those used overseas and
concealed lighting, instead of the standards, looming fifteen metres high, that
had been prescribed. A member of the Chadstone branch of the ALP, he was
charged with disloyalty for describing the ousting of people from their homes as
'an atrocity' and resigned from the party on the eve of the 1984 state election:
   I hereby resign from the ALP in protest against the flagrant distortion of the
   transport policies on which the party gained office . . . Barely 18 months after the
   reservation was gazetted, hundreds of elderly citizens are being hounded from their
   homes to watch in horror as the homes are razed for fear of squatters . . . I regret
   leaving the ALP, but can no longer abide the minister's subversion of the very good
   transport policies formulated by the rank and file.

  The changed circumstances did not mean elimination of the pressure groups.
T A G continued its assault on council, condemning expenditure on 'traffic
studies, traffic trials and traffic obstructions' while spending 'not a farthing on a
FREEWAY LINK'. The GEG seemed to agree:' "Let's not Wait for the World",
but concentrate on Bringing Australia Together by linking our Freeways and
No 1 Highways N O W no matter which "L" governs!'. In the other court, Tyrer
continued the seemingly futile battle to achieve design improvements in
association with the G C V A , badgering the bureaucracy and his former political
colleagues. SERA addressed itself to attempting to ensure that the R C A fulfilled
262                                                     PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY

its responsibility to restore the parklands and provide decent community access
to them, all part of its desire to see the creation of 'a unique linear park of world
   Looking at the mutilated landscape, rucked into mounds or gouged into raw
furrows, besieged by earth-moving equipment and stripped of all that is human,
that dream hardly seems possible, especially if the mind's eye carries the
sentimental imprint of the former signs of salvation: small bridges, tracks worn
in the grass, scruffy trees, the figures of people walking and playing, even the old
eroded banks and the mossy, seeping mouth of a drain — excellent for unwary
children to adventure in! Worse than the physical alteration is the troubled and
defeated air that can be detected; and yet human ingenuity is capable of deter-
mined and brave feats, and the land, even though it cannot be substantially
restored, can be healed and coaxed into a fresh profile that bears its own stamp
of individuality.
   As the agency responsible for overseeing the attempt to reconstruct the valley,
council was charged with a delicate and onerous task. It had showed some
interest in the new technology that was being proposed to minimise the ill
effects of the link, but pursuing that line offered few politically feasible rewards.
It was also the butt of considerable resentment in some quarters for perhaps
unavoidable sins of omission. It was a clearly visible scapegoat for accusers from
both sides, particularly those who had struggled to save the valley:
  Many concerned citizens have fought hard and long against vested interests of
  insensitive groups. The battle is lost and a monument to these people is rapidly
  blighting our area. The final insult is however that our valley is being called the
  'Malvern Valley' . . . Please, before it's too late, let it be called 'Gardiner's Valley'
   again and let us try to forget the infamous act of Malvern and their collaborators.

  However, valley residents were not council's only dependent population, and
it was charged, albeit inadvertently, with the need to make the best of an
unchosen outcome, and that included reuniting its citizens. Besides, for various
reasons, several councillors who had strongly opposed the link were no longer
in office, and the outcome had become an accepted fact. Practical problems
added to the burden, and the chief of these was compensation, 'the war on the
peace', which dictated discretion in dealing with the media, and that struggle
was following a familiar pattern, although this time the drama was by way of an
epilogue. By 1987, agreement with the state government had been reached
regarding some areas that abutted the link, yet in May council considered
refusing to sign the whole seven-part agreement. Like several of his predecessors,
the Minister for Transport had refused to meet with council and resident groups
to discuss the link and matters outside the RCA's authority; his letter
'unfortunately indicates no support whatever for council's position'. Although
the G C V A joined the protest against the minister's refusal to discuss design
matters, any declaration of outrage was feeble and final. Within weeks the
agreement was signed; according to the mayor, negotiations had been arduous,
but the settlement was 'fair and equitable'. More positively, council could feel
that it had pioneered negotiating criteria, set precedents for similar situations,
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS                                                             263

extracted more monetarily than the government ever envisaged and ensured
that the link was softened by the filagree of contour mounding and foliage.
Moreover, even though the Aboriginal profile of the valley had been consigned
to memory, a different and still pleasing outline might emerge through the
arcadian vision of the Valley Plan, even if it was a bit Alice in Wonderlandish:
'Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage . . . she knelt
down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How
she longed to get out of that dark hall . . .'. In August, Mayor Lang was photo-
graphed pleasantly driving the official limousine over the first of the five bridges
above the link to be completed: 'He said he had supported the R C A project
since its inception and looked forward to further improvements'.
   Attention was now concentrated on attempting to secure the vestiges of the
Aboriginal dream within the far less dreamy urban and suburban reality. The
Gardiner's Creek revegetation project was going well: the council nursery had
propagated over 22 000 native plants and staff had located 'precious patches' of
original vegetation, including kangaroo grass, native tussocks and tea-tree, and
two community 'plant-outs' had interested local schools and play groups. 'An
old digger' claimed to have seen the phantom platypus that was said to inhabit
the creek — hopefully, a companion was in the offing. There were still other
realities to consider and other forces at work. In September 1987, forty-seven
Camberwell residents petitioned the Malvern Council to 'immediately rectify
the dangerous state of the altered western bank [of the creek] . . . before a
tragedy occurs'. According to one Malvern councillor, as a result of MMBW
works, it looked 'quite horrendous now with no tree cover and a steep rise twice
the agreed height from the low water mark'. Apart from random MMBW
missions to shore up the creek, Malvern was now responsible for the creek, as
one disgruntled Camberwell resident indicated: 'while they say it's their valley,
all the people who live along what is now called "Gardiner's Drain" are in
Camberwell'. There was an irony there.
   The irony became monumental in 1988 when the old CRB's vision, now
dressed in R C A swaddling clothes, gained final approval from the party that
had formerly decried it. 'Progress has always had a price', as the Regional Progress
editorialist said comfortingly, welcoming the development of the road system
towards Ringwood, even though it heralded more dispossession and more
  The C3 is undoubtedly a quantum leap forward . . . While sympathising with the
  environmentalists and those hundreds who have had to find other homes with the
  forging of the C3 link, progress has always had a price . . . we must never lose sight of
  the long term benefits, despite the cost of progress in the short term.

The simplistic logic and glib bow to the idol of progress were familiar, even
though they now looked rather discredited and musty. However, they provided
the occasion for an announcement that guerillas were still likely to attempt to
waylay the idol along its path: a Community Coalition had been formed of
residents of several municipalities to contest the 1988 local election. They failed
to make an impact. In September 1988, Premier John Cain delivered the coup de
264                                                  PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY

grace when he opened the first stage of the link, saying that it 'should have been
built years ago but previous Liberal governments could not or would not build
it'. The comment was audacious, clever, uninformed — or all of those.
   The centre of disturbance had gone from Malvern and shifted elsewhere
('Keep freeways out of creek valleys' was the message of a Box Hill resident to the
editor of the Age in February 1989). A sigh of relief might have seemed in order,
but Malvern citizens might well have asked themselves what kind of experience
they had been through. The story had taken thirty years to unfold, only to end
along the lines that had been indicated in the very first paragraph. And yet
there had been lessons learnt along the way. Some of them were not necessarily
very palatable and so worn that they were almost cliches: the opportunism of
politicians, the powerlessness of a divided community, the often conflicting
interests of the general public and the individual, and between individuals, the
rogue nature of the bureaucracy when it is intent on a particular course, the
sour solutions often required by the metropolitan situation. Malvern's historic
existence had gone full circle; the creek that defined it and gave it an essential
part of its character was again a metaphor for the dual forces of creation and
destruction, however they might be interpreted. In November 1988, a swollen
Gardiner's Creek burst its banks, swamping the ARL and putting it temporarily
out of commission. Those who believe that nature resists violation might have
seen the flood as a primeval act of revenge. At a mundane level, too, the
problems were amassing. By early 1989, the R C A announced that it would
instal permanent fold-out signs to warn motorists of congestion on the ARL,
and, driven to distraction by the noise of traffic, unhappy residents were again
warming the seats at protest meetings.
   Unanswered questions still remained. What was planning about if, after the
final accounting, it seemed to be mainly a troubled and painful process to
produce an unsatisfactory outcome? As a city within a city, where was
Malvern's identity as a community? What, after all, was the purpose of that age-
old focus of human endeavour, the city, and can it be reanimated? There may
be cold comfort in the fact that the choice that at least offers the possibility of an
answer was eloquently put twenty-seven years ago by that diagnostician of
cities, Lewis Mumford:
  Urban society has come to a parting of the ways. Here, with a heightened
  consciousness of our past and a clearer insight into decisions made long ago, which
  often still control us, we shall be able to face the immediate decision that now
  confronts man and will, one way or another, ultimately transform him: namely,
  whether he shall devote himself to the development of his own humanity, or whether
  he shall surrender himself to the now almost automatic forces he himself has set in
  motion and yield place to his dehumanized alter ego, Tost-historic Man'.

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