29 January 2021

Probing the polls: cyclists and Skywhales old and new

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Patricia Piccinini's Skywhale

Patricia Piccinini’s Skywhale. Photo: National Gallery of Australia.

The perennial topic of cyclists and cars was argued out in our opinion pages this week after Region Media’s Tim Gavel asked whether cyclists were given a fair go on our streets.

While some accused Tim of being the next Pedal Power ambassador, others agreed that motorists have become increasingly aggressive in recent years as more cyclists populate main roads across the ACT.

We asked, do cyclists get a fair go on Canberra’s roads? A total of 1092 readers responded.

Your choices were to vote No, motorists make it dangerous out there on two wheels. This received 32 per cent of the total, or 351 votes. Alternatively, you could choose Yes, but they’re not so good at sharing. This received 68 per cent of the total, or 741 votes.

This week we’re anticipating the return of Skywhale to Canberra’s skies, accompanied by the all-new Skywhalepapa. They’ll be seen for the first time together publicly on 6 February as the hot air balloons fly over Parkes.

Only artist’s sketches of the 10-storey Skywhalepapa have been released so far, so Canberrans lucky enough to get a spot at John Dunmore Lang Place will witness the inaugural family flight. It will feature in Canberra as a National Gallery Touring Exhibition.

But not everyone agrees that the first Skywhale investment was a good one on the ACT Government’s behalf, or that we need another one in our skies.

READ ALSO What happened to the idea of roads, rates and rubbish?

Columnist James Coleman asked whether any of this is justified by contrast with the evergreen priorities of roads, rates and rubbish, describing the works by internationally renowned artist Patricia Piccinini as “seven and 10-storey-high grotesque testaments to the fact the ACT Government has lost the plot.”

He argued that government’s role is to “take some of our money and give it back to us in the form of useful things”, saying the priorities should be “that new roads will be built and existing ones maintained, sufficient supplies of water and power will be secured, and rubbish will be collected”.

HSewell said: “But…but…but wasn’t Skywhalepapa commissioned by the NGA, not the ACT Govt?”

(Skywhalepapa was indeed commissioned by the NGA, although the ACT Government-funded a substantial proportion of the original Skywhale. Initial costs met by the government in 2013 were about $170,000 with a total lifetime cost to the government of around $300,000.)

Phil Wall said: “Over $2 billion is contributed to our economy annually by tourism (in normal times) so the cost of things like Skywhale, if it’s successful in being an attraction that helps a reasonable number of people come visit, or even if part of the reason visitors recommend others to come, then it’s a successful expense.”

Mello wrote: “It is time to stop this self-government experiment. We simply don’t have the numbers to collect the revenue”, while Robert Morris asked “When will people in the ACT understand that our local government has no interest in maintaining the bare minimum what they are responsible for? It is more important for them to maintain their image of being the social crusaders; even if it is at the expense of the Canberra Community”.

What do you think about the return of Skywhale and the new Skywhalepapa?

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