15 December 2019

If we're really a community, tolerate Summernats

| David Murtagh
Join the conversation

Summernats isn’t for everyone. That’s OK. Let it go … Photos: File.

Ian Bushnell kicked a hornet’s nest on Monday when he suggested time was running out for Summernats in the ACT and the “annual orgy of burning rubber”. David Murtagh argues it’s time Canberra practised the tolerance it preaches.

Summernats sounds like hell on a stick.

It’s always hot. It’s always loud. It’s always crowded. It’s the same every year.

Is watching a burnout from a modified EK Holden really any different from watching a burnout from a modified EB Falcon?

Probably not.

But is that behaviour any odder than walking around in the Spring heat looking at flower displays which – can we be honest for a moment? – look the same as the displays last year? And the year before that?

Which is why a lot of people don’t go. And will never go. Even when they live in the same city. Because it’s boring.

And that’s the beauty of Summernats. And Floriade. If you don’t like them, don’t go. They’re not compulsory.


Floriade 2019. Or 2018. Who can tell?

But what if you live in the inner north and every year for a few days Summernats makes your life hell?

Does it really make your life hell? People park on median strips. Yep, they sure do. Just like locals. And they’ll be booked. Just as they are at fetes. Look on it as a positive externality from Summernats!

OK, what about the concert on the Saturday night? It’s so loud?

Yep, it’s loud. Fair call. For one night of the year – for which the ACT region scoops up a heap of greasy lucre – your life is a bit uncomfortable. Your fellow Canberrans thank you for your sacrifice.

Just as the residents in Tuggeranong sacrificed their bus services in order to integrate Canberra’s public transport network under Network 19 for the benefit of the inner north.

Oh yes, we know, it was very important for Wanniassa to lose buses to integrate into the inner north and Gungahlin network. For when light rail makes it to north Cooma. In 2034. Or not. We all make sacrifices. Some are bigger than others.

There are people in this city who will never go to the Art Gallery. Or the Portrait Gallery. Or the Australian War Memorial. Or the Raiders. Or the Cavs. And yet we all pay for, or subsidise, these attractions. That’s what we do as a community.

If you don’t want to pay and don’t even like paying for some or all of these, grit your teeth and suck it up buttercup because there will be elements of government spending which you do like and others you don’t. It’s how we survive as a community. We deal. As a society. As individuals. We deal.

And we need to start dealing a bit better than we have been. And be more tolerant because there aren’t that many occasions where the community can come together anymore. Summernats, for all its flaws, is a community event that brings a very diverse group together. And it’s being added to the list of deplorable events hitting the wall.

Australia Day is objectionable because it reminds Indigenous Australia of dispossession.

Anzac Day is maligned because it’s “too white”.

Easter and Christmas offends atheists and non-Christians.

Even the Melbourne Cup – once the race that stopped a nation – is now the target of growing animal rights protests.

Australians can’t even agree on the flag anymore.

It will get worse, of course, because as we become more insular within our tribes, there will be fewer events that bind us.

The truth is, for a city that lauds its tolerance, we’re not very tolerant of people who don’t slot into the right pigeonhole.

Maybe Ian Bushnell was correct when he wrote that Summernats doesn’t fit well in a “clean and green city that spruiks its progressive credentials, has serious climate action goals and is about to source all of its electricity from renewable sources”.

But here’s the thing: just because this city has “progressive credentials” doesn’t mean that non-progressives get run out of town on a (light) rail. Non-progressive are part of the city’s rich tapestry.

Actually, Ian Bushnell was 100 per cent correct about Summernats. Summernats doesn’t fit with Canberra. At all.

Which is precisely why Summernats must remain a fixture in Canberra.

There is barely a day of the week that the ACT Government doesn’t worship at the altar of diversity.

But why is it that the most progressive are the least tolerant? Whether it’s wanting to get rid of Summernats or scraping Alan Jones’ poster off the back of a bus – tolerant Canberra doesn’t seem as openminded as it pretends to be.

If we’re going to survive as a society, we need to accept that maybe not everyone is as enlightened as we see ourselves, or that they have different perspectives and hobbies that we think are silly. They can be ignored. For the sake of our society, we need to learn to deal. To turn the other cheek. In some cases, for just one weekend a year.

Except for Blue Poles.

Which is rubbish.


Floriade 2017 … or is it?

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Wot a classic finish !….. beautiful. A great article and accurate down to the last line.

This event has run its course and should be abandoned. The real problems occur outside of the EPIC site. Increased crime and abuse of women at the local brothels are not values that I support. Yes, it is small minority of attendees but it is a consequence of the event.

I’ve never attended Summernats and am unlikely to ever attend Summernats but seriously, we can’t have a handful of days each year for this event? We may as well just wrap Canberra in cottonwool and send it to bed early with a warm milk.

Lets keep it and make the tickets free.. so long as attendees sit through a quick seminar on basic logic in the hope that it prevents such a ridiculous argument from happening in future…

For those relentelessly defending summernats – like people who don’t want the worlds largest burnouts in their neibourhood are threatening to ethnically cleanse them… there are a few things that you need to consider before voicing your case…

First – you unfortunately cant use both the good old one size fits all “we are good for the economy” argument alongside “its not bad for the environment because its only a few days”. These two just dont mesh, as I think your economic significance on the balance sheet is equally as irrelevant as your air quality emissions. Sorry – but your hardly the building sector, and while our environment may be able to cope with the damage you cause, our economic heart wouldn’t skip a beat should you cease to exist.

Second – You also cant use “its important to us” and “you should leave your home if you don’t like it” for very basic reasons of hypocricy. As a rule – it is very difficult to get somebody to empathise for your case when you are dictating how they should get out of your way (albeit from their own place of residents) in order for you to engage in activities that they don’t agree with.

Third – the whole “we’ve cleaned up our act” argument doesn’t allign with the “its been going for 30 years and is therefore important” arguement, as the former bascially admits to the anti-social behaviour that many believe to define the event.

Paul Hounsell4:27 pm 15 Dec 19

Summernats should be totally welcomed as one of the ‘pillars’ of our society.. if you cant tolerate Summernats, then you shouldn’t expect society to tolerate your interests.. just unCommon sense.. Duhh..

So called ‘progressives’ hate Summernats because it is mirror to their own hypocrisy and core intolerance. That is good enough reason to keep Summernats as a Canberra institution.

I totally agree.

I’ve never been to Summernats and have no intention of ever going.

But not everyone has to like what I do.

If we look, we can find something negative about any event.

Good people are those who instead try to find the positives in things.

Juliet Lautenbach1:20 pm 15 Dec 19

Nicely said! And given what I read a few months back about electric cars having superior torque etc, maybe it’s time for the new, super-powerful Tesla concept vehicle to turn up too? See if it can compete….

Scott Inkson1:19 pm 15 Dec 19

Wow, so many comments against Summernats. My wife and I drive up from Tasmania to view the cars and events and I have not seen any poor treatment of women. I’m starting to think Canberra doesn’t deserve such a fantastic event. Perhaps Melbourne would like to put its hat in the ring and take over the event as they appear to be a more diverse city. I would not have as far to drive then either??

Laura Scicluna11:39 am 15 Dec 19

Well written!

Stephanie Borst10:53 am 15 Dec 19

It is very easy to speak of tolerance if you don’t live next to it. I can live with the crowds, the parking in our street, even the noise and the not-so-pleasant behaviour I sometimes encounter in our neighborhood. I understand that all kinds of festivals have their place in a community. What is really hard to manage is the incredible stink. The exhaust fumes and rubber stench is much worse than the smoke we have had from the fires these days.

I think Summernats is pricing itself out of range. I wanted to go on the Friday to get some pics of the Show and Shine for my Facebook blog and the ticket for that one day is $88.00. Yikes! And if you want to go on Saturday it is $105.00. No concessions. When I went to the Arnold Classic in Melbourne it was $25.00 for a three day pass. I know which one I’d rather attend.

a lot is two words9:19 am 15 Dec 19

oh my god this article is brilliant. I snorted my coffee at Blue Poles!! haha loved it.

Real community means recognising climate and environment is out biggest priority. Real community doesn’t indulge some behaviours at the expense of others – it drives (pardon the pun) win win behaviours for all in the world. If this event was universally loved by all Canberrans it would be different – but this event is held at the expense of many in the community – especially Watson and Downer communities who suffer from its noise and air pollutants. Have you thought about those members of the community?

David Murtagh you talk too much common sense, demonstrate too high a level of intelligence, aspire too much to the maintenance of democracy. You are a danger. I salute you Sir.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.