2019 Year in Review – Opinion

Amy McPhillips 20 December 2019

2019’s most-read opinion stories again reflected the diversity of our growing contributor team and the broad interests of our readers. Narrowly missing a spot in this year’s top ten were stories about the global student climate strike, the value of self-government, the ACT’s rental crisis, and the pros and cons of pedal power. Canberra-bashing, Geocon’s contentious advertising, the legalisation of cannabis and the perennially popular topic of light rail also made an appearance.

Politics featured strongly in this year’s most-clicked stories and sparked lively debate on the website and social media. But in the top spot was a powerful reflection by Tim Gavel on a topic that challenged readers with some tough questions.

10. Is the ACT turning into a one-party state?

Legislative Assembly

Do nearly two decades of Labor incumbency mean that the ACT is now effectively a one-party state? Photo: File.

In many ways, the ACT is a blessed and comfortable community. We are the best-educated, longest-lived citizens in the country with the highest median incomes. Politically, we’ve nailed our colours to the mast: there’s always been a Liberal vote, but this is emphatically a Labor town at every level. We’re on the cusp of two decades of Labor government at next year’s local elections.

So as years of incumbency creep on, has the ACT effectively turned into a one-party state? That’s the question Genevieve Jacobs asked as she delved deeper into the issue mid-way through the year.

9. Australia burns, Canberra chokes and all of us worry about our future climate

Currowan fire

The smoke in Canberra has brought back painful memories of the 2003 fires. RFS and Fire and Rescue crew at Bawley Point on 5 December. Photo: Queanbeyan Fire and Rescue.

As the smoke rolled into Canberra in December, householders across the city reacted with alarm, and many checked if anything close by was burning. While there has been debate about whether or not it was appropriate to talk about climate change as a key driver of this year’s unprecedented long and fierce fire season, ex-fire chiefs and scientists argue that we must confront these occurrences as one of the consequences of a changing climate, wrote Rebecca Vassarotti.

8. How Ricky Stuart proved me wrong

Ricky Stuart

Ricky Stuart has changed the culture of the Canberra Raiders. Photo: File.

When Tim Gavel first heard that Ricky Stuart would be returning to coach the Raiders, he wasn’t sure if it was the right move. David Furner had been axed with three games to go before the end of the 2013 season and everybody associated with the club was emotionally drained from the fallout. But six years down the track, Ricky could not have done more on and off the field to generate success and support for the team, Tim wrote.

7. Tuggeranong Parkway car trap misses out in Budget roads spend

Tuggeranong Parkway

Heading into the Tuggeranong Parkway car trap from the north. Photo: Lachlan Roberts.

There was a lot of money in the ACT Budget for roads this year, wrote Ian Bushnell, but one notorious stretch of bitumen – the Tuggeranong Parkway – missed out despite the disproportionate impact any accident there seems to have on Canberra motorists. Readers were quick to weigh in with their experiences of snarls on the parkway and add their own tales of traffic troubles.

6. Abolish the NCA to get Light Rail moving

Labor MLA and member for Murrumbidgee Bec Cody believes the NCA is stifling progress on Light Rail Stage Two. Image of proposed light rail route to Woden: Supplied.

Labor MLA Bec Cody believes the NCA is stifling progress on Light Rail Stage 2. Image of proposed Light Rail route to Woden. Photo: Supplied.

It’s time to abolish the National Capital Authority because it’s a roadblock to Canberra’s development and is stifling progress on Light Rail Stage 2, wrote Labor MLA Bec Cody in July. While the article drew some harsh criticism, other readers voiced their support of the proposal.

5. 30 years on, has self-government been worth it?

Legislative Assembly

It’s 30 years since the first ACT Legislative Assembly election. Has it all been worthwhile? Photo: File.

If you think politics these days is a wild affair, you weren’t in Canberra 30 years ago to the day when the ALP and Liberal Party slugged it out in the polls with the Sun-Ripened Warm Tomato Party, the Surprise Party and the Party! Party! Party! (party), and even the Abolish Self Government Party (which went on to join the new Assembly it had never wanted in the first place). There were three different governments in a matter of years and references abounded to Italian parliaments.

So 30 years on, has it all been worth it? Is Canberra better off with self-government? That’s the question Genevieve Jacobs asked in March.

4. PM’s public service utopia: A ‘friendly’ warning, and a message for the mob

Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Morrison delivers his speech last week. Photo: Screenshot.

It is entirely fitting that in the week that our daggy Dad Prime Minister delivered his folksy homily to the cream of the Public Service that the biting TV satire Utopia returned to the screen with the bumbling infrastructure agency grappling with spin masters and all manner of political dodginess. It’s all too gruesomely familiar and just a little depressing, wrote Ian Bushnell in August.

3. We can’t pretend everything in ACT public schools is fine

School

Why are peak education bodies afraid of an independent review into our public school system? Photo: File.

The open letter published in The Canberra Times in March by the ACT Council of P&C Associations, ACT Principals’ Association and the Australian Education Union was dismaying on many levels, wrote Kim Fischer. She said it’s time to stop pretending everything in ACT public schools is fine, and called for an independent review into the school system. The suggestion drew a generally positive response from readers.

2. Why free, good quality local media matters more than ever in this town

Genevieve Jacobs

Genevieve Jacobs, Group Editor for Region Media. Photo: Daniella Jukic, wearefound.

In June, we brought you the news that the Canberra Times would go behind a digital paywall. Genevieve Jacobs wrote that the long forecast move came on the back of multiple redundancies towards the end of the Fairfax era and the consequent diminution of a local institution.

Here at Region Media, we believe that grassroots local journalism is more important than ever. It’s absolutely fair to pay for quality, but there is more than one way to do that. Through our connection with the local business and community sectors, we believe we’ve found a way to fund high-quality, well-connected local journalism that will remain free and is without commercial or political bias.

1. Death of a cyclist: Some tolerance, please

Cyclists

Why has the death of a cyclist prompted hatred and not awareness? Photo: File.

News that a cyclist had died after being hit by a truck on the Federal Highway sent a shudder through the cycling community, wrote Tim Gavel in February. But a number of social media responders used this tragedy as a platform to attack the existence of cyclists on the roads, prompting Tim to ask: why does the death of a cyclist prompt such hatred towards one of the most vulnerable of road users?

Join us tomorrow for a look back at the top lifestyle articles on RiotACT in 2019.


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