If you’ve been following our top ten series over the past three days, you might be wondering whether RiotACT readers cared about local politics in this, an election year. Not one of the top ten articles that gained the most traction on Facebook or Twitter or in terms of site traffic in the news category was election-related. When it comes to the most commented upon articles for 2016, though, you most definitely had our politicians and their policies, particularly those relating to light rail, in your sights …
1. Light rail to arrive sooner, cost less and bring more trees to Northbourne
There are 19 pages featuring 271 comments on this February 1 news report, which announces details of the consortium selected to build the light rail network. Much of the debate was about whether the Labor/Greens government had a mandate to sign contracts for the development of the service or should hold off until after the 2016 election, though there was plenty of discussion too on the topic of how likely the project is to end up over budget and how unlikely it is to be completed on time.
2. Let’s can the tram (till October, at least)
Second on this top ten list is another light rail article, this one a May 24 opinion piece by former Liberals MLA Greg Cornwell, in which he describes the signing of light rail contracts prior to the election as “an act of political bastardry”. Should the light rail project go ahead? Were the Liberals right to campaign against it? Was it fair that it would benefit residents in Gungahlin more than those in Canberra’s south? The comment stream stretched over 14 pages and features 210 entries from readers.
3. RiotACT Face-Off: A mandate for light rail?
Our February 10 Face-Off article, in which the Liberals’ Alistair Coe and Labor’s Simon Corbell debated about whether the Government had a mandate to commence the light rail build prior to the election, inspired 146 reader comments over ten pages. Seeing a pattern yet? Again, our readers discussed whether the contracts should be signed before the election. ‘It’s really a “Clayton’s mandate” at best,’ wrote Dungfungus. ‘This is a 700million dollar+ commitment plus 30 years of ongoing cost. Surely we can hold out till the end of the year before locking us in,’ said Openyourmind.
4. How are we paying for light rail in Canberra?
On October 8, a few days before the ACT election, we published this opinion piece by pro-light rail lobbyist Damien Haas, attracting some 126 comments over nine pages. As Bigred put it: “I cannot recall an issue polarise an electorate as much since the Australia Card issue all those years ago.”
5. ACT to target 100% renewable power by 2020
Coming in at number 5 is the first non-light rail piece, an April 29 article reporting on the fact that the ACT would move to target 100% renewable energy use by 2020, five years earlier than previously announced. Its 124 comments debated whether this move fitted into the category of “nanny state” (“When did our government get the right to force us to buy “green” energy? Where is our choice?” wrote Wildturkeycanoe) or visionary and world-leading (“Good stuff. Smart move to take advantage of cheaper prices and increase the purchase,” said Pajs).
6. Light rail to cross the lake to Woden next: Greens, ALP
The last article to top the century in terms of comments with 102 was another on the issue of 2016, light rail. It was the news story announcing on September 2 that a re-elected Labor-Greens Government would extend the light rail network from Canberra’s city centre to the Woden town centre. The very first comment, from Rommeldog56, introduced two of the key areas for debate: “I thought stage 2 was to go to the Airport via Russell and the Parliamentary Triangle loop and that Woden wasn’t slated for many years down the track (excuse the pun). So much for embracing tourism coming in via the now International Airport. How will they cross the Lake ? Will it still be by closing a lane each way on Commonwealth Avenue bridge ?” There was much discussion about why Woden had been selected, with speculation focusing on the perceived likelihood that it was about winning votes in the key southern electorate of Murrumbidgee.
7. ACT Election now on!
In at number seven in the most-commented on stakes was this wide-ranging April 18 John Hargreaves ACT election preview which attracted some 94 comments. Readers enjoyed the banter with John about whether independent candidates stood a chance, whether the Libs were likely to oust Labor and the Greens from government, how successful the Sex Party would be and where its policies differed from those of the Greens as well as how Nick Xenophon would fare if he chose to run some candidates for the Legislative Assembly here.
8. Dutton offensive on asylum-seekers
Making his second appearance in the list with a piece on the Federal Coalition government’s policies on asylum seekers and the Australia people’s reactions to them is John Hargreaves. We try to focus our content on matters related to Canberra and the region, but every now and then one of our columnists feels strongly enough about an issue to diverge from that general rule, as John did in this May 30 opinion piece. The 84 comments his piece inspired indicate our readers feel equally as strongly on the asylum seeker issue.
9. A Look around Canberra: Gungahlin
Alexandra Craig’s A Look Around Canberra series visited Gungahlin on February 12, and the RiotACT leapt into action, criticising the suburb over the size of its gardens (too small), the architecture of the buildings in the town centre (too boxy), whether the roads were planned appropriately to manage traffic flow and whether there were enough trees/the right sorts of trees (no/no). Intriguingly at that stage light rail wasn’t on the radar, at least not in this context.
10. Why does Tuggeranong stink?
The unpleasant smell that affects several Tuggeranong suburbs, particularly in hot weather, is clearly a serious issue for residents. Dungfungus may not be one of them, though, given he opened the comment stream with this: “The number of empty ACTION buses coming into Tuggers needs to be doubled so more fresh air can be imported and released.” More seriously, there was discussion about possible causes of the smell, with three favourites being sewage pipes, the tip and Lake Tuggeranong.
Thank you for all your comments this year, Canberra. We look forward to debating the big issues of 2017 with you. Check back tomorrow for our top ten reader-contributed articles of the year.