Inside the Canberra Bubble: More than just pollies and public servants
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Inside the Canberra Bubble: More than just pollies and public servants

There's the real world - where real people live and "things that matter" occur - and there's the Canberra bubble.

So says our new Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose deliberate efforts to isolate the capital from the rest of the nation has become the cornerstone of his pitch to reconnect with "real" Australians.

"The Canberra bubble is what happens down here when people get all caught up with all sorts of gossip and rubbish and that's probably why most of you switch off any time you hear a politician talk," a very relaxed-looking Mr Morrison said in a recent video.

Talk of the Canberra bubble burst onto social media last week, as journalists, politicians and keyboard comedians poked fun at Mr Morrison's new pet phrase.

Hilarity ensued.

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Journalist Lyndal Curtis found an actual Canberra bubble;

Veteran journalist and former editor of The Canberra Times Michelle Grattan chimed in;

Categorising Canberra as little more than a regional outpost for bickering politicians and well-paid public servants is not new.

Mr Morrison, a former managing director of the Australian Tourism Commission, is simply exploiting a decades-old narrative in an attempt distract attention from the troubles within the federal government.

But is Canberra really stuck in a bubble, sheltered from real people and real problems?

Yes, more than 40 per cent of Canberra workers are in the public service, compared with about 15 per cent nationally.

And yes, the median income in the territory is a tick over $63,000 - the highest in the nation, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistic figures.

But it's not all black suits and skirts, policy briefs and Comcars.

Anglicare's annual rental affordability study this year found there were no properties in the territory within the budget for low-income earners, except for those on family benefits or the aged-pension.

The number of people sleeping rough in the ACT almost doubled between 2011 and 2016.

The city itself is changing, too, on the back of population growth and a strengthening visitor economy.

ACT tourism guru David Marshall said Canberra was slowly shedding its reputation as a city for, and defined by, politicians and bureaucrats.

ACT chief minister Andrew Barr says PM Scott Morrison needs to venture outside Parliament House and experience the real Canberra.

ACT chief minister Andrew Barr says PM Scott Morrison needs to venture outside Parliament House and experience the real Canberra. Credit:Karleen Minney

The capital welcomed 4.94 million visitors in the 12 months to March 2018, spending a combined $2.43 billion, according to Visit Canberra.

"20 years ago, when Canberra bashing was at its peak, it was very hurtful," said Mr Marshall, a former ACT Tourism Commissioner and now chair of the Canberra region Tourism Leaders Forum.

"But I think that people have moved on.

Mr Marshall said Parliament House - and the intrigue that swirls around it - was a vital tourism drawcard for the city, but emphasised that Canberra's appeal reached far beyond Capital Hill.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr urged Mr Morrison and his colleagues to venture outside the parliamentary zone to experience the real Canberra.

"Canberrans are used to being the punching bag of the federal Liberal government," Mr Barr said.

"They fly in/fly out when Parliament sits and frequent the same three restaurants in Kingston. Canberra is about more than the parliamentary zone, the people of Canberra know how good we’ve got it."

VisitCanberra's five ways to burst ScoMo's Parliament House bubble.

Get up in the air

Swap the hot air of his parliamentary colleagues for a hot air balloon ride above the city. Take in the scenery of a "city within a park". With suburbs. And real people.

Discover the serenity

Breathe in the clear air, taking in a spectacular spring sunset on a Canberra Urban Adventures sunset Kayak Tour on Lake Burley Griffin. He’ll soon be thinking of Lara Bingle’s catch-cry "Where the bloody hell are you" from his Tourism Australia days.

Slide into the weekend

One for Mr Morrison and his girls. Pull on the overalls and free-fall down a 6-foot slide at Questacon. Not quite as slippery a slope as a Liberal party leadership challenge, but close.

Check out Australia’s best bar

Enjoy a local cool climate Canberra district wine at Bar Rochford, Australia’s Best Bar as named in the 2018 Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide Awards. Wander down to Lonsdale Street and take your pick of foods along the city’s popular eating strip. From a Dirty Bird burger at Grease Monkey to a caramel popcorn Sunday at Eightysix, he’ll be spoilt for choice.

Dan Jervis-Bardy is a Canberra Times reporter.

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