The RiotACT has focused more than ever in 2016 on providing thoughtful perspectives on the issues that matter to Canberrans. The most-read opinion pieces on the site examined key Legislative Assembly election issues such as light rail, residential rate rises and service provision in outer suburbs like Oaks Estate, as well as matters less directly related to our political scene, among them the state of Floriade, property prices, the abuse of cyclists, the closure of indoor sport centre mpowerdome and communication between drivers on our roads.
10. Do we pay the highest rates in Australia?
In his first appearance in this top ten, Kim “Kimbo” Huynh presents one of a number of must-reads he shared with us ahead of the ACT election, his analysis with fellow ANU researcher Tom Chen comparing what ACT residents pay in residential rates with equivalent charges interstate. Their findings? “There are jurisdictions in Australia that charge residents significantly more than the ACT. The rate of increase in the past few years and as projected over the next few years is high, but not as dramatic as the Liberal Party would like us to be believe. When you look at all the state and council level taxes together, Canberra residents pay per capita less than the national average.”
9. Are all Canberrans equal? Oaks Estate residents might well wonder
A late 2016 RiotACT recruit was that very likable Like Canberra candidate for Kurrajong in the ACT election, Maryann Mussared. On November 4, Maryann took up an issue she’d campaigned on in the lead-up to the election, the often-forgotten Canberra suburb of Oaks Estate. “In the run-up to the recent ACT Election, a slightly Orwellian situation became apparent,” Maryann wrote. “It seems that all Canberrans are equal, only some Canberrans are more equal than others.” She argued that the system had broken down and that to an outsider it looked as though this was a community that was living on a knife edge. “What needs to happen to make the rest of Canberra start to take an interest in this level of inequality and the all too obvious potential for tragedy?” she asked.
8. Flashers, truckers, and the code of the road
Motoring writer Jane Speechley also joined the RiotACT late in the year and quickly became one of our most popular contributors with readers. In this November 27 post, she describes the secret codes motorists use to communicate with each other. “It’s like our own little language, or ‘code of the road’,” Jane writes, giving examples like flashing lights to warn of speed cameras ahead and the customary wave to acknowledge another driver’s decision to allow you to merge in front of them. “Anyone who accepts my courtesy and doesn’t give me The Wave back can expect a headlight flash in the least, and more likely, a smiling wave of the middle finger,” she jokes. We can’t wait to read her Summernats coverage.
7. Women are being abused on Canberra roads, and you can help stop it
Our cycling correspondent, Anne Treasure, copped some criticism when she wrote about the abuse of women on bicycles in Canberra. “We’d like to think that our streets are safe for riding bikes, but a different story emerges upon speaking to women who ride on Canberra roads,” she wrote in the September 12 post which included this quote from Canberran Megan Baker-Goldsmith: “If someone abuses me at a red light for being a cyclist, or a woman or not having a model-like physique, I point out my helmet mounted camera, and suggest they smile for it. You’re on camera so if you escalate the behaviours, good luck in court.”
6. House sale in Dickson a surprise for the neighbourhood
Regular RiotACT columnist Paul Costigan appears in the top ten opinion pieces list thanks to a December 14 article about a fairly ordinary house in Dickson selling for far more than neighbours expected. Was the high price related to the likelihood of the block being redeveloped as townhouses? Had the fact that light rail will run down Northbourne Avenue from 2018 played a role? “No matter what the reason for the buyer coming forth with such a huge amount for this smallish and very unfashionable house, the neighbourhood is in shock,” Paul wrote.
5. Where, and how, the ACT election was won
“Every single day of the campaign, Labor had something positive to announce for the city, in another part of the city, to the point where it became impossible for the media to keep up,” wrote Charlotte Harper in this analysis of the Labor-Greens victory the morning after election day. In addition to their textbook media management, she put the progressives’ win down to the number of enthusiastic people they had on the ground, Labor’s depth of candidates per seat, the local focus of both ALP and Greens candidates and their more effective management of social media. The comment stream was a forum for our readers to provide their own assessments of the result and the reasons behind it.
4. Has Floriade jumped the shark?
We felt a little bit sorry for Floriade organisers this year, as they copped flak about matters that were out of their hands, such as the weather and the fact that many Canberrans have now seen enough tulips and daffodils to last a lifetime. “I reckon the issue here is that for many of us, the concept itself is getting a bit tired,” Charlotte Harper wrote on October 4. “Tourists who are first, second or even third time visitors will probably be dazzled, but on visit number 29, a Canberran can hardly be blamed for feeling as though this is a flower show that’s jumped the shark.” The challenge is on for organisers of next year’s event. Can they find a way to revive our spring festival?
3. How are we paying for light rail in Canberra?
Pro-light rail lobbyist Damian Haas ran an active web and social media campaign in the lead-up to the ACT election, and this opinion piece formed a major part of his strategy. After it was published on the ACT Light Rail website in early October, we approached him to ask for permission to republish it on the RiotACT. While it was clearly written from the perspective of a supporter of the transport project and labelled as such, we felt it was one of the strongest pieces we’d read on the topic, addressing criticisms effectively and making a real case for voters to consider. It was one of the most-read posts in the lead-up to the ACT election.
2. Tuggeranong the loser as mpowerdome remains closed
Robert Issell joined the RiotACT as a regular contributor late in 2016, and immediately drew the attention of tens of thousands of readers with this November 19 post about mpowerdome, a privately operated multipurpose indoor sports facility at Fadden that closed its doors in April. “Some people say there were car-parking safety issues,” Robert wrote. “Some say a new buyer could not be found and some say that the Government has not been very supportive. Whatever the truth, it’s a real shame that so many people who played each week, school holiday and weekend are now without these fantastic facilities and the benefits that they provided.”
1. The best arguments for light rail just aren’t very good
Debate on the hottest local issue in town this year became most divisive in the few weeks leading up to the ACT election. Knowing this, we weren’t surprised that independent candidate, academic and RiotACT columnist Kim Huynh created a furore with this September 8 post, co-authored again with ANU colleague Tom Chen, in which the pair set themselves a challenge to impartially weigh up the arguments for and against light rail. Prior to taking up the challenge, Tom “had no view on the matter”, and Kim was “very slightly in favour because he liked the idea of light rail bringing Canberrans together”. “After examining a wide range of media articles and opinion pieces, material from the parties and lobby groups and reports by government and non-government organizations, we concluded that the best thing to do is stop the tram,” they wrote. Cue a barrage of comments (74 to be precise), including several from Kim himself engaging with those who were critical of his stance.
Check back tomorrow for our top ten Instagram snaps of the year.