If we’re really a community, tolerate Summernats

David Murtagh 15 December 2019 141

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?

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141 Responses to If we’re really a community, tolerate Summernats
Tod Davis Tod Davis 7:27 am 15 Dec 19

Absolutely brilliant article

Andrew Duncan Andrew Duncan 7:39 am 15 Dec 19

Fantastic. Maybe the best article I’ve read about Canberra in years. Of course the diversity and equality aspect will be ignored by the loud minority.

And agree on Blue Poles.

Sharon Daley Sharon Daley 7:44 am 15 Dec 19

Great article

Marco Spaccavento Marco Spaccavento 7:46 am 15 Dec 19

Exactly. It’s everyone’s national capital, not just the middle class capital of galleries and flower shows.

    Annie Mills Annie Mills 8:55 am 15 Dec 19

    Fiona Dickson geez you must be fun at parties. The point of events like these is to bring tourists to the city which benefits everyone. Who are you to decide what is and isn’t acceptable for people to attend? What a supercilious comment.

    Marco Spaccavento Marco Spaccavento 9:28 am 15 Dec 19

    Fiona Dickson I think there’s a place for everyone and their activity of choice. Not just the ones you like or think are worthy, and not just the ones I like or think are worthy. That’s what I mean when I say it’s everyone’s national capital - from the bogan to the intellectual.

    Amy Hemsworth Amy Hemsworth 10:18 am 15 Dec 19

    Fiona Dickson you do realise these events bring millions upon millions of dollar into our economy and keeps people in jobs?

    Robin Kneebone Robin Kneebone 10:44 am 15 Dec 19

    Didn't the mulicultural screw over a heap of vendors last time tho and jacked up the cost of stalls? If i remember correctly there was an article in the canb times about it. So who are the more entitled the middle class who just want some fun or the city council...

    Marco Spaccavento Marco Spaccavento 10:50 am 15 Dec 19

    Fiona Dickson I think it’s time to change the mentally that certain interest groups should be able to dictate what others can do or enjoy. Live and let live, provided any harm isn’t too great.

    I agree Summernats has a downside. Everything does. I also think it’s a tolerable downside given its short duration and other benefits.

    Incidentally, by your logic every event should be banned because people travel to them and that’s bad for the environment.

    Amy Hemsworth Amy Hemsworth 12:11 pm 15 Dec 19

    Fiona Dickson should we ban spilt milk because i dont like it and its an inconvenience to me? Or what about the multicultural festival becuase it creates too much trash?

    Neil Chandler Neil Chandler 2:05 pm 15 Dec 19

    Fiona Dickson, can't you see that virtue ethics and "cancel culture" aren't saving the environment or changing the world? If you advocate removing cultural institutions that are enjoyed by many because they dont fit your ideals, all you are doing is feeding the divisions that keep us busy hating each other and never actually working together to achieve meaningful progress?

    Jason Adamson Jason Adamson 10:11 pm 15 Dec 19

    Fiona Dickson I disagree. Not every spectator or participant is a mullet toting bogan. There are many ppl who appreciate the cars for what they are.

    The event has changed considerably over the last 10-15

    years with focus on family days etc. A

    penny to a pound says you have never attended the event and yet feel as though you have the right to comment on it.

    Les Csibi Les Csibi 10:49 pm 15 Dec 19

    Fiona Summernats is for one weekend every year. It brings in a lot of money to the ACT and a lot of people enjoy the cars.No one is forcing you to go. It has become a family friendly event and is nothing like it used to be.If you can not tolerate one weekend of people enjoying themselves then you are not very tolerant .

    Amy Hemsworth Amy Hemsworth 8:17 am 16 Dec 19

    Fiona Dickson lol that just proves how uneducated you really are. You really think spilt milk is just an accident? 🤣 its an aust wide music festival

Toni Isaacson Toni Isaacson 8:06 am 15 Dec 19

Yeah - Cause it's our right to burn rubber and pollute the environment both physically and acoustically. If you don't go to Floriade, you would not even know it is there. So not true for the Summernats. Hate it - but can't escape it.

    Adam Hauraki Adam Hauraki 8:34 am 15 Dec 19

    Toni Isaacson it is on once a year. Get over it

    Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 9:14 am 15 Dec 19

    Toni Isaacson how would you like a bunch of noisy and toxically smelly tyre burnouts to move in next door on your Xmas new year bbq with friends?

    Every year ...

    Hugh Mungus McLauchlan Hugh Mungus McLauchlan 9:16 am 15 Dec 19

    Acoustically assault the environment? 😂 Heaven forbid something should be a bit loud for a couple of days a year on a weekend and bring in piles of cash for the local economy..

    Tim Smecky Tim Smecky 9:33 am 15 Dec 19

    Julie Patricia Smith I would love that the sweet sweet smell of methanol and tyres

    Peter Bojkowski Peter Bojkowski 1:08 pm 15 Dec 19

    Toni Isaacson guess you wear this with pride...

    Dave Blow Dave Blow 6:40 pm 15 Dec 19

    Hugh Mungus McLauchlan But the cash does NOT go to the people most affected.

    Kriso Hadskini Kriso Hadskini 7:23 pm 15 Dec 19

    Hugh Mungus McLauchlan Oh yes I remember so well the joy of having a 10 day old baby and living in Watson when Summernats reared it's ugly head, being an out of towner then I had no idea. Gosh it was brilliant. Eff everyone but da boys eh?

    Mat Nipperess Mat Nipperess 8:59 pm 15 Dec 19

    Toni Isaacson "can't escape it?"

    Have you tried, I don't know, going away for a few days? Maybe go to the coast for the few days that happen to be on the same weekend as Summernats? Maybe head off on a camping trip that happens to coincide with Summernats? Maybe go on a fishing trip that happens to be the on that 1 weekend of the year that Summernats is happening? No? Gonna stay in Canberra and whine about it instead? Yeah, I thought so

    Scott Havelberg Scott Havelberg 9:31 pm 15 Dec 19

    Kinda ironic whinging about four days of pollution while slurping down energy and supporting industries that create environmental havoc to provide our comfy lifestyle. I would argue the 15 megalitres of water that support Floriade once a year is far more environmentally irresponsible. Especially while our country burns

    Jen Cashmere Jen Cashmere 9:06 am 16 Dec 19

    Julie Patricia Smith it's the first weekend of January so actually doesn't coincide with Christmas or New Year.

    Jacob Volgyesi Jacob Volgyesi 10:49 am 17 Dec 19

    Julie Patricia Smith then go away for Christmas spend Christmas somewhere else if you hate it that much move your not forced to live where you do you choose where you live are you saying that if I hate living around people I should tell the council to remove all residents around me because I don't like being near people? More people want it then people who don't want it at no stage should anything be changed if majority of people want it that's called democracy society isn't meant to bend to your will

Gilavon Gilavon 8:10 am 15 Dec 19

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.

Glenn Beaumaris Glenn Beaumaris 8:12 am 15 Dec 19

Well written. Canberra is often maligned due to the house on the hill, but it has so much going for it. This includes events for different walks of life and it must stay that way.

Rob Chalmers Rob Chalmers 8:18 am 15 Dec 19

Agree with all that except the Alan Jones bit.

Terry West Terry West 8:23 am 15 Dec 19

And Canberra deserves a dedicated racing precinct and that will never happen because 20 years of lies from both sides of government have made up there minds to remove all forms of motor sport

    Liam Bourke Liam Bourke 11:23 am 15 Dec 19

    Terry West Fraser park raceway opened back up this year!

    Dave Blow Dave Blow 6:44 pm 15 Dec 19

    Ive never understood the lack of effort motor racing enthusiasts display about this. It seems they demand a fully taxpayer funded facility... instead of doing what every OTHER fringe sport does... and fund raise and build it themselves.... If , as these enthusiasts say, it would be so popular..then how hard would that be? Various grants and favourable leases would no doubt be available..why don't they go for some "self help"?

    Tahn Eather Tahn Eather 9:06 pm 15 Dec 19

    Fairburn park has a go kart track, a hill climb track, a moto cross track, motor bike trials track and a speedway.

Zoe See Zoe See 8:25 am 15 Dec 19

This article doesn't take into consideration that the behaviour isn't confined to the summernats venue, nor the fact that females get sexually harassed regularly while walking around areas that aren't part of summernats. I shouldn't have to stay inside after 5pm for the either weekend just to avoid the summernats crowd.

    Zoe See Zoe See 8:57 am 15 Dec 19

    Sammie Davis I don't go to summernats, but I do like to go out to dinner in Manuka or Kingston and I have definitely had people (men) leaning out of their cars and yelling "show us your tits" to everyone. And I've seen it happen to other women as well.

    Nigel Whittaker Nigel Whittaker 9:15 am 15 Dec 19

    Refrain from going out in those areas just once a year to avoid the crowds.

    Try a different area maybe just those couple of nights.

    Zoe See Zoe See 9:52 am 15 Dec 19

    Nigel Whittaker I havent been to the city on summernats weekend for nearly 20 years. So, other areas of Canberra aren't immune to the appalling behaviour displayed by summernats patrons.

    Also, I shouldn't have to moderate my behaviour because there's a car festival in town. You don't see that sort of stuff happening when Floriade is on... weird, huh?

    Tina Easton Tina Easton 10:02 am 15 Dec 19

    So you've never inadvertently walked up 'tough street' where all of a sudden 100+ makes suddenly start yelling at you to 'take it off' incredibly frightening! I'm a Grandmother was not drunk and certainly not enjoying the attention

    Olivia HB Olivia HB 10:07 am 15 Dec 19

    Zoe Carter yeah I wish they'd hold it somewhere else like ute musters or those vile country ball things. That's the demographic that likes this stuff, why does it have to be held here?

    Zoe See Zoe See 10:14 am 15 Dec 19

    Olivia Angel Lindsay I'm not against summernats in its self, but I am definitely against the behaviour that is associated with it in the wider community.

    Lyndal Walters Lyndal Walters 11:01 am 15 Dec 19

    Zoe Carter there’s a long history of sexual assaults at Summernats. Many women outside Summernats have also been subjected to this behaviour. Just because someone may not have seen it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Not sure why the women of Canberra have to tolerate this or stay indoors while it’s on so that a certain element of Summernats (definitely not everyone) gets to behave however they like. I remember chick Henry saying one year that it was a successful Summernats because the number of sexual assaults was down from the year before 😱

    Lyndal Walters Lyndal Walters 11:02 am 15 Dec 19

    Sammie Davis Zoe Carter there’s a long history of sexual assaults at Summernats. Many women outside Summernats have also been subjected to this behaviour. Just because someone may not have seen it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Not sure why the women of Canberra have to tolerate this or stay indoors while it’s on so that a certain element of Summernats (definitely not everyone) gets to behave however they like. I remember chick Henry saying one year that it was a successful Summernats because the number of sexual assaults was down from the year before 😱

    Lyndal Walters Lyndal Walters 11:02 am 15 Dec 19

    Nigel Whittaker um that’s not good enough !!

    Zoe See Zoe See 11:22 am 15 Dec 19

    Lyndal Walters that's what my point is. It's NOT ok.

    Lyndal Walters Lyndal Walters 1:03 pm 15 Dec 19

    Zoe Carter yeah I realised my comment sounded like I didn’t agree with you but I actually was ❤️

    Lyndal Walters Lyndal Walters 1:04 pm 15 Dec 19

    Zoe Carter agreed

    Katie Saarikko Katie Saarikko 3:31 pm 15 Dec 19

    Nigel Whittaker what if you live there? Why can't they refrain from behaving like scum? This is not within the event but the surrounding areas and places attendees stay. Take it to some paddock away from people if they want to act like animals.

    Jeremy Nell Jeremy Nell 8:48 pm 15 Dec 19

    Falls Festival had multiple sexual assaults last year, yet we don't blame that on the urbane middle-class culture of that demographic of course. Society's problems are the bogan's fault.

fionad fionad 8:28 am 15 Dec 19

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?

Wayne Lutter Wayne Lutter 8:30 am 15 Dec 19

This lefty mob of do gooders need the Event more than anything, the money it delivers can not be replaced

Stephen Page-Murray Stephen Page-Murray 8:32 am 15 Dec 19

I’m 67, and I’ll be spending four days there with my 20 year old daughter, and we’ll have a fantastic time, as we did last year.

Corey Karl Corey Karl 8:38 am 15 Dec 19

Barring summernats, pretty much every other major event that does suit the “pigeonhole” has been run out if EPIC, is that a coincidence??? I think not !! And I still don’t forgive the government for throwing out the GMC 400

Michelle Anne Michelle Anne 8:40 am 15 Dec 19

As a women and attendee of Summernats for the past four years. I have never been sexually harassed inside the venue or outside. I am not denying that it might happen however I have had more cat calls just walking in the street randomly then at a car event.

I totally agree that as a community we need to be more accepting and tolerant of other people’s preferences and opinions.

However I am full aware that by writing anything in support of Summernats will garner criticism and someone will attempt to poke a hole what I have observed and experienced. I would just remind people that tolerance is about accepting diversity of thought and not condemning those with a different opinion.

    Lyndal Walters Lyndal Walters 11:04 am 15 Dec 19

    Michelle Anne it’s very different to how it used to be - Canberrans have a long memory though.

    Katie Saarikko Katie Saarikko 3:31 pm 15 Dec 19

    Colette Robinson I agree...

Blair Williams Blair Williams 8:47 am 15 Dec 19

Tolerance paradox.

Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 8:47 am 15 Dec 19

Some good points but also some not so good.

Tolerating intolerance is not a good thing. That is how Hitler rose to power and how racist and sexist behaviours flourish (that's why seeing a radio presenter who had a hand in starting the Cronulla riots and has constantly encouraged or threatened women with violence is not a nice thing to see on our busses. I would never really go to the Summernats but they can stay but they do need to make a better effort to keep women safe and to encourage sustainability (electric or hydrogen car category maybe).

    Annie Mills Annie Mills 8:59 am 15 Dec 19

    Russell Nankervis I have never been myself but the hatred is ridiculous. It has improved a lot from what it was regarding how women are treated and there is still a way to go on that front but it is evolving and that is commendable. Not everyone will like everything that goes on in this town but if the NIMBYs had there way we would be the soulless city we once were.

    Beth Wright Beth Wright 9:19 am 15 Dec 19

    Russell Nankervis Canberra was never a soulless city. There are lots of amazing stories throughout its history.

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 2:13 pm 15 Dec 19

    I love this city and want to see diverse and creative events. I grew up in Bathurst and my Dad and brothers were both entrants of the Summernats so it is part of my family's history. We just need them to be respectful and to evolve with the times

Victor Lee Victor Lee 9:04 am 15 Dec 19

I'm not a car nut. But to ban Summernats is just silly. It's an event that goes for a few days a year. It doesn't inconvenience anyone. It's a celebration of cars and a bit of fun. If the people can't have that, might as well ban all festivals. For example, why is Floriade or the Multi cultural festival above Summernats? It isn't, so just let them be. Don't like it then don't go.

    Luke Ashe Luke Ashe 9:18 am 15 Dec 19

    Yeah, tell that to the women who get harassed or worse.

    And it gets stupidly noisy

    Victor Lee Victor Lee 9:30 am 15 Dec 19

    Luke Ashe Then management need to put on more security. Fix the problem not the symptoms. And noisy for what... 4/5 days out of 365.

    Katie Saarikko Katie Saarikko 3:27 pm 15 Dec 19

    Victor Yee never been harassed by people going to Floriade... just saying. As a woman it is scary if you live anywhere near Dickson, Watson to just walk on the street. You don't have to go to get harassed, this happens anywhere in the vicinity.

    Haddon Bell Haddon Bell 4:06 am 16 Dec 19

    Luke Ashe same as any music festival....

    Jen Cashmere Jen Cashmere 9:02 am 16 Dec 19

    I've been 16 out of 20 years & have never had a bad experience - which isn't to say it doesn't happen because it absolutely does.

    There are new measures almost every year to stamp out this behaviour & there is a zero tolerance culture. I've seen people kicked out & denied reentry.

    It's 4 days a year - the same 4 days every year.

    I know it's not everyone's idea of a good time but nothing will ever appeal to everyone.

    If you really hate it perhaps you could arrange to not not be in Canberra that weekend...

    Alisha Syphers Alisha Syphers 8:50 pm 17 Dec 19

    Craig Nash I have to agree as I girl I have gone most years of my adult life and I have never had any problems!!! Don’t go in short shorts and you’ll be fine!!

    Alisha Syphers Alisha Syphers 8:50 pm 17 Dec 19

    Jen Cashmere 🙏

Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 9:12 am 15 Dec 19

Summernats has improved a lot since the drunken riots blocked north Bourne Avenue and vandalised our neighbourhood

But the annual burnouts are an abomination because of the incessant loud noise including of me too louts around the suburbs but most particularly due to the smell of burning rubber

The organisers have to get exemptions from environmental laws for this level of toxic emissions. It’s outrageous that the government approves these exemptions

Other than the burnouts I no longer have great objection to Summernats but the burnouts are the reason we leave CANBERRA every new year and spend our money elsewhere

    Kel Spnce Kel Spnce 9:38 am 15 Dec 19

    Julie Patricia Smith so if you leave every year, how is it an issue?

    Niklas Chad Daniels Niklas Chad Daniels 10:33 am 15 Dec 19

    Also do you leave on a horse and carriage? Because it would seem if not you contribute to climate change while you leave and come back

    Robert Roe Robert Roe 1:58 pm 15 Dec 19

    Julie Patricia Smith So when you leave each year, i’m guessing you drive a car, polluting the Canberra air as you go? Or do you ride a bike, or drive your electric car 100k’s before re charging, from a powerpoint that uses coal fired power to charge?

    Stephen Page-Murray Stephen Page-Murray 2:06 pm 15 Dec 19

    Julie Patricia Smith

    You’re not here. How can it be an issue for you?

    Adam Jones Adam Jones 9:59 pm 15 Dec 19

    Julie Patricia Smith well the $25mil summernats brings in will make up for the few hundred u spent elsewhere

    Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 11:04 pm 15 Dec 19

    Kel Spnce it is an issue be use I would rsther not have to plan to leave canberra every year during the early new year

    Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 11:05 pm 15 Dec 19

    Robert Roe how is that relevant to what I wrote ?

    Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 11:06 pm 15 Dec 19

    Adam Jones show me the competent economic analysis that demonstrates that

a lot is two words a lot is two words 9:19 am 15 Dec 19

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

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