OPINION: I’ve just returned from a week cruising the highways and byways of the busy Queensland capital.
Some 20 years ago, Brisbane – until then the forgotten step-sister of Sydney – cast off the shackles of its Cinderella status. In what quickly became an annoying cliche, local hipsters facetiously dubbed their city ‘Bris Vegas’ in recognition of its newly energised condition.
Remote Perth is now at the point that bigger Brisbane was two decades ago, shedding its Dullsville tag but still constrained by a Conservative mindset.
Here’s a potted comparison of the two urban outposts …
Visionary stadium upgrades between 10 and 15 years ago delivered Brisbane the world’s best Rugby and League ground (Lang Park), and an AFL/cricket stadium (Gabba) that puts both Subiaco and the WACA to shame. Pull your finger out, Perth.
Way back when globetrotting Lisa Scaffidi was a TAA airline hostess, her blue-blooded lord mayoral prototype in Queensland, Sallyanne Atkinson, started calling Brisbane the ‘River City’.
‘Salaryanne’ as many Brisvegians now remember her was eventually booted from office but her one lasting legacy – the River City moniker and resulting appreciation of the serpentine Brisbane River – stuck.
That said, Brisbane’s brown waterway is crap compared to Perth’s majestic Swan.
One notable exception is the Citycat fast ferries that zigzag between the north and south banks of the river between Brisbane’s eastern and western suburbs from sunup to midnight.
They are loved by locals and tourists alike.
With Perth’s 29 puny councils lacking clout compared to single-council Brisbane, and the Barnett government lacking vision, it’s hard to see Perth gliding into the Citycat era anytime soon.
Mr Barnett seems hell-bent on defiling Perth’s waterfront by ripping up a grassy park, erecting 10 towers of dubious design, and gouging out a rectangular marina for the rich and semi-famous.
Modern buildings were cleverly placed at the back of the South Bank site, away from the river. They covered an ugly railway line years before a similarly laudable but costly project got underway in Perth’s Northbridge.
Unlike the rectangular marina planned for Perth’s pleasure-cruising millionaires, South Bank’s sprawling swimming lagoon caters for patrons of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds.
From Rockingham in the south to Yanchep in the north, Perth’s golden beaches beat Brisbane’s mudflats sands down.
Still, the Brisbanites do have plenty of sand to kick around when they day trip to the gold or sunshine coasts.
A big shout-out to Perth’s restaurateurs here with the WA capital sporting way more diversity and quality on the cafe front.
With the possible exception of West End in Brisbane’s once-rough inner-south, the chain outlets have taken over Brisbane’s latte strips. The default meal in Brisbane is a deep-fried one.
However, cafe and restaurant service in the Queensland capital is far superior to that in Perth. Queenslanders with their glitzy Gold Coast and cruisy Cairns have embraced the service game rather than suffered it.
Brisbane eateries strike the right balance between attentiveness (without being too clingy), friendliness and efficiency.
Unlike in Perth, it’s rare in Brisbane to see wait-staff plonk a butt-cheek on your table and make your dining experience all about them.
Brisbane Airport – and every other capital city airport from Hobart to Darwin – is better than Perth’s.
All things considered, though, Perth is the better of the two cities.
Contrary to urban myth, Perth is far from the most laid-back place on earth. But it is very scenic and you can still get a patch of white sandy beach to yourself.
Perth’s rate of improvement – driven by small business and artistic innovation rather than grandiose government schemes – is more impressive than that of Brisbane which, frankly, has been resting on its laurels in recent years.
With a good dose of local government reform, and a change of state Premier, there would be nothing stopping Perth.
As country crooner Mike Nesmith once yodelled …
“I love it here on the range.
“But I would love it more if it changed.”
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