The most-read opinion stories on The RiotACT in 2018 were a mixed bag, reflecting the diversity of its growing contributor team and the breadth of its readership.
Among the highest-ranking opinion pieces this year were stories about whether we should change the date of Australia Day, a look at the changing face of the bush capital, the dangers affecting Canberra cyclists, Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s headline-making “brain snap”, and the perils of driving on the Tuggeranong Parkway.
First up, Rebecca Vassarotti addressed the furore accompanying the suggestion to change the date of Australia Day.
She described the criticism aimed at people who questioned whether celebrating the public holiday on 26 January is okay given that the date marks the beginning of a history of dispossession, disenfranchise and racism towards First Australians.
While many RiotACT readers agreed that it was time to change the date, others were adamant the move was unnecessary.
Canberra is the bush capital in more than just name, wrote Genevieve Jacobs in April, with fingers of bush stretching deep into our suburbs, wilderness nearby, and streets lined with huge trees. But as the city changes and grows rapidly, will there still be room for green space?
RiotACT readers had plenty to say, many along the lines of: “Here’s an idea……don’t just sit by and accept a growing population (at this rate) as inevitable. Preserve this awesome city and its green spaces for future generations,” and “The city needs to have more places for people and community, whereas at the moment it’s deeply dominated by car infrastructure and private detached houses with fenced-in green space.”
Tim Gavel’s assertion that public enemy number one within the cycling community that races on the Stromlo Criterium is not traffic, but kangaroos, had readers reaching for their keyboards. Tim wrote that having almost been cleaned up a couple of times over the years with kangaroos at dusk, he can vouch for the danger.
Lively debate ensued among RiotACT readers at Tim’s suggestion that a fence around the circuit could be a possible solution to the kangaroo problem, with commenters divided.
As apartment developments barrelled ahead across Canberra in 2018, Ian Bushnell had a message for Chief Minister Andrew Barr: Take a deep breath and reflect on why Canberra is Australia’s most liveable city and whether it would still be thus if it became just another city dotted with cranes.
The article raised many questions that engaged RiotACT readers in conversation: Are we building too many apartment blocks? Is it the only way to deal with urban sprawl? Do we need to curtail suburban development and preserve our remaining open spaces? Have our planners lost the plot?
There is no question we should remember, reflect and honour the sacrifice and service of those who have played a role in the defence of our nation. But recently, the quiet dignity of how we remember our veterans seems to have morphed into something quite different, wrote Ian Bushnell in November.
His article was prompted by the announcement that the Australian War Memorial was set to get an overhaul worth almost $500 million over the next nine years, and the news that Virgin Australia had proposed priority service and salutes for veterans.
In the number five position in 2018 was an article from Genevieve Jacobs, who asked readers: As our old post-war buildings are knocked down and new apartments go up, are we wrecking Canberra’s heritage too?
Plenty of RiotACT readers agreed, as did commentator Tim Ross, a former radio presenter and self-described design nerd who spoke on the topic at The Press Club.
“What’s happening in Canberra is you are destroying great things and replacing them with complete rubbish. But for some reason Canberra doesn’t understand what they’ve got,” Ross said emphatically.
Was it just a brain snap from the Chief Minister? An expression of his increasing frustration with some sections of the Canberra community to accept his vision for the national capital? Or was he just grabbing the attention of his audience with an outrageous opening gambit?
Whatever the reason, Andrew Barr’s declaration that he hates journalists and “is over” the mainstream media attracted a high level of interest on The RiotACT.
Ian Bushnell wrote that Chief Minister Andrew Barr should have known that his now notorious comments and loathing of The Canberra Times in particular, would have been leaked immediately.
Genevieve Jacobs was back in the top ten when she pondered whether we should be anxious about the wave of high-rise developments in the ACT.
Like many Canberrans, she has concerns about where our city is heading on the cusp of so much change, so she asked three major stakeholders: the developer, the landscape architect, and the senior bureaucrat for their thoughts on the subject.
Genevieve also posed a question to readers: Can we do a better job at growing upwards not outwards? There was, as always, a diverse range of comments in response.
In the wake of an all-too-familiar report of traffic chaos on the Tuggeranong Parkway after a peak hour pileup, Ian Bushnell shared his thoughts about how we can ensure the scenario isn’t repeated again and again.
He identified the stretch of road between the Arboretum and Glenloch Interchange northbound, where the traffic merges and Belconnen-bound vehicles look to veer left, as the culprit.
Many readers shared similar anecdotes of being caught in the Tuggeranong Parkway car trap and their suggestions for making it less vulnerable to accidents.
Coming in as the number one opinion piece RiotACT this year is Tim Gavel’s reflection on the perception of the nation’s capital by outsiders. Many see Canberra as a cold, cliquey community, not in tune with the hardships and variables faced by the rest of Australia.
In essence, this makes us fair game. As Tim wrote, “That perception goes some way in understanding why our sporting teams seemingly get treated like the unwanted relative at the Christmas dinner. You are part of the family but, at times, you get the feeling they wouldn’t really care if you weren’t there.”
The article concluded that Canberra is so much more than the set of government, but misinformed outsiders are still making life tough for the people who live here and the sporting teams they support. Responses from readers ranged from “100% correct, Mr Gavel,” to “If you think you’re being demonised, you’ll see every call that way, move on people.”
Which of RiotACT’s opinion articles resonated with you in 2018?