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The weekend in Port Places

On Sunday I headed across the River on the Westgate Punt to attend the commemoration of the Westgate Bridge collapse on 15 October 1970.

It was a grey day. The flags on the Westgate Bridge fly at half mast on this day.

As if for the result of the Referendum.

The commemoration under the Bridge at Spotswood is always well attended. The commemoration is also about supporting the community of people affected, their children and grandchildren.

It is not just what is said in the speeches but the soundtrack to the minute of silence – the constant sound of cars on the Bridge overhead – that is powerful.

This year, workers on the Westgate Tunnel Project were strongly present, their hoodies well representing the Bridge above and the tunnel below. The Hyde St ramp that will connect the tunnel with the Westgate Bridge is just metres away. Both of these major projects have been undertaken by John Holland.

Very few survivors of the Bridge collapse are still alive. The Westgate Bridge memorial committee is dedicated to ensuring that the Bridge collapse is not forgotten. They have recruited younger committee members to ensure the story is transmitted.

The Plumbers’ Union has taken 35 of their younger members to the site and told them the story of how 35 men lost their lives when the Bridge collapsed while under construction. Passing the story on.

In the fateful days leading up to the Westgate Bridge collapse, workers attempted to speak up about their concerns but no one listened.

After the Bridge collapse, workers would not let the issue of workplace safety rest until reforms were put in place. Workplace safety in Victoria and Australia was transformed by the tragic accident.

They had a voice.

On Saturday 14th October, the proposal “to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.” was defeated. 60.77% voted No, 39.23% voted Yes.

In the electorate of Macnamara the result was almost reversed. 63.77 voted Yes, 36.23% voted No.

Many people voted before Referendum Day with pre-poll conveniently located at the Port Melbourne Town Hall. On the eve of the Referendum, between 4.30 and 6.00 pm, queues formed around the block at the Town Hall.

All Port Melbourne booths were quiet on polling day since many people had already voted. Yes supporters way outnumbered No volunteers at all the polling booths. Albert Park College on Bay St and Port Melbourne Primary School were geared up for the democracy sausage sizzle, but it was more of a fizzle for these hardworking volunteers.

Results by polling place in Port Melbourne
Liardet Community Centre, 154 Liardet St, PORT MELBOURNE VIC 3207708436131,157
Albert Park College (Environmental Arts Hub), 40 Bay St, PORT MELBOURNE VIC 3207662364121,038
Port Melbourne Town Hall, 333 Bay St, PORT MELBOURNE VIC 32079,1006,22012215,442
Port Melbourne Primary School, 415 Graham St, PORT MELBOURNE VIC 320766835981,035
Fishermans Bend Community Centre, cnr Centre Ave & Dunstan Pde, GARDEN CITY VIC 320744532010775
source: Australian Electoral Commission

The divide between inner and outer suburban electorates has been noted by Kos Samaras who argues that the Yes campaign arrogantly neglected outer suburban electorates.

Does the referendum result simply reflect the demographics of Port Phillip?

.id provides useful analysis of the 2021 census results for Port Phillip according to many metrics. There were more professionals in Port Melbourne in 2021 than any other occupation.

In less than one hundred years, Port Melbourne has changed from a working class to professional suburb.

Hallowee’n decorations are up on the fences of Port Melbourne, and much more abundantly than Yes posters. No voters did not express their views on fences.

Meanwhile the constitution asserted its influence this week when the High Court ruled that Victoria’s tax on road use for zero- and low-emissions vehicles was unconstitutional. The implications of this decision remain to be worked through.


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