2016 is now drawing to a close thankfully. It has been a year marked by blunders, back flips, inertia and demagogues. The Annual Dubbo Weekender Awards have this year been spilt into two categories – Winners and Losers – with recipients coming from all areas of our nimble, innovative and exciting society and beyond. The judges have harnessed these characteristics to select the winners and losers for the year.
Four Corners – the ABC’s flagship current affairs program has been a standout this year. Four Corners delved into a wide range of subjects including The Panama Papers, sport doping and corruption, fraudulent financial industry practices, Clive Palmer’s fall from grace, the housing market, political donations, the mismanagement of the dairy industry, youth issues in Bourke, and the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre investigation – a story that prompted a royal commission. Investigative journalism of the highest order.
The Paralympics – whilst the judges always turn off the Olympics due to the overdose of jingoism and commercialism, the Paralympics again showed that sport is about competing to the best of the athletes ability, not the pursuit of victory at the expense of sportsmanship. The judges approve.
-isms - Racism, Sexism and Fanaticism made a stunning comeback this year, being regularly sighted at political campaign rallies, political interviews and far right wing protests. Combined with xenophobia, bigotry and homophobia, the -isms were a major part of the political landscape this year- belying the claim of free speech advocates that political correctness and the legislation generally known as 18C was restricting Free Speech.
Pauline Hanson – having run out of C grade celebrity appearance opportunities and keen to use Parliamentary Privilege to protect her from swarms of Muslims, Pauline Hanson rode the tide of voter dissatisfaction with the major political parties back into Canberra. Her Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party now has 4 senators and is a constant thorn in the side of the Coalition. The upcoming Queensland state election is predicted to be a good showing for home girl Hanson, particularly in light of the growing disquiet with the performance of the Liberal National Party in rural areas.
Mandate – not a dating app or a Pokémon Go creature, yet Mandate was highly prized. Politicians sought it; they talked it up, and then claimed they had it (regardless of the margin of victory.) The Party faithful promoted the power of Mandate and yearned for a country where Mandate was realised. For sheer popularity, Mandate is a winner.
Donald Trump – fulfilled his ultimate vanity project, and gave fresh hope to demagogues everywhere. In the world’s greatest democracy, Trump gamed the US electoral system by convincing voters that personal insults, one word slogans, racial taunts and ignorance of judicial processes is ‘telling it like it is’ and qualified him for leader of the free world. Heaven help us all in this post democracy world.
Toyota Hilux Ute – is on target to be the highest selling motor vehicle in Australia this year. Businesses bought the workhorse models, and families bought the fancy dual cabs to commute during the week and haul recreationary things on the weekend – like a mullet, business up front and party out the back.
Malcolm Turnbull - continues to declare this the most exciting time to be alive, but the voters don’t seem to agree. Turnbull’s popularity has declined from a leadership high to equalling Abbott’s lows. He was unconvincing when attacking militant unionists and a failure at trying to reign in the hard right nutters of his Party. The double dissolution election strategy came within one seat of being his political eulogy, and the second half of the year was spent wasting political capital on the backpacker tax and the omnibus bill. Prime Ministers have been deposed for less. Disappointment, thy name is Malcolm.
Marriage equality – is anathema to the hard right of the coalition (see above.) Malcolm Turnbull put on a genial inclusive face when he attended the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, but marriage equality will never happen in the current parliament. His invitation to next years Mardi Gras has understandably been cancelled.
The National Party – received fewer votes than the Informal tally in the Federal Election, and at the State level saw a 21% margin in the seat of Orange turn into a victory for the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party at the recent by-election.
Consultation – lost its way in the NSW Parliament when Premier Baird and Deputy Premier Grant dropped a bombshell on the greyhound ‘industry’ without warning. Perhaps some industry consultation and a timeframe to meaningful reform would have saved face and a Deputy Premier. Hard on the heals of the Local Government merger stoush and it’s no wonder there was a change of guard in Orange.
Pauline Hanson – has already felt the strain of leading her group of ill discipline, petulance and wilfully ignorant One Nation Senators. Keeping her unruly band of misfits together will be a struggle not unlike herding cats. Or Palmer United Senators.
Clive Palmer – went from anti-establishment hero to political zero in three years. His Palmer United Party imploded spectacularly this year, taking Clive’s hubris and bluster with it.
Providers of Pastoral Care – who appeared before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse claiming through the wonder of hindsight that more should have been done at the time to deal with the perpetrators and support the victims. Very true – but institutions who claim moral authority whilst being wilfully blind to the harm being caused by their own actions and employees, and who prioritise the reputation of the offender over the care of the victim, forfeit any claim to hindsight as a defence.
The Australian cricket team – continued their fine tradition of being cocksure of their own ability, and grossly underestimating the ability of their opponents. And the subsequent media reportage continued to be mind numbing.
Any person – who used ‘curated’ when ‘organised, selected or presented’ would have done just fine e.g. “we’ve curated a menu of burgers just for you” and anyone who said ‘unanonymised’ instead of ‘revealed’. Anyone who thought morning television host Sonia Kruger was an authority on immigration policy, and anyone consuming any mainstream media article about Jarryd Hayne – thereby perpetuating the media obsession.
Pulled anything – pork, lamb, beef - food trends come and go, but when the major fast food chains get a hold of it, it’s over.
The Budget Emergency – gone from the limelight, shunned, and forgotten, never to be the subject of hyperbole again – we hope and wish – but with the benefit of hindsight this seems unlikely.
Syrian citizens - they don’t deserve to be, but are the victims of a tyrannical leader, religious extremism and foreign interference. Man’s inhumanity to Man in action.
TRuth – no longer seems to matter in the modern world of social media and partisan compliant mainstream media. Along with critical thinking, truth lost out to shouting and emotion.
By his own admission, Greg Smart was born 40 years old and is in training to be a cranky old man. He spends his time avoiding commercial television and bad coffee.