Dubbo Photo News & Dubbo Weekender

2018: The Winners & The Losers

Cartoons: Paul Dorin Cartoons: Paul Dorin

2018 is now thankfully drawing to a close. The usual events, such as a change of Prime Minister and shambolic national energy policy, shared centre stage with severe climatic events and stagnant wage growth. It has been a long and exhausting year that we can now put behind us.

But not before the annual Dubbo Weekender Awards! This year the Awards have been spilt into two categories – Winners and Losers – and the judges drew inspiration from PM Morrison by giving a fair go to anyone who was prepared to Have a Go.

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The Winners

The Big 4 Consultancy companies – PWC, KPMG, Ernst & Young, and Deloitte – continued to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded federal and state government consultancies. Over $650 million this year as part of $3.1 billion in the last six years. That these companies are major political donors, architects of multinational tax avoidance schemes, and perform the functions of the public service should of course be no cause for concern.

Government intervention in coal fired energy production – in a complete reversal of its free market ideology, a section of the Liberal-National Party (LNP) floated the idea of the taxpayer-funded forced acquisition of Liddell power station, even though the current owner has deemed Liddell to be unviable past 2022. The government sealed this award by later going on to threaten to unleash ‘a big stick’ to market forces/private operators to drive down energy prices.

Stochastic Terrorism – noun – the public demonization of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act, which is statistically probable but whose specifics cannot be predicted, most commonly manifesting in the occurrence of a lone wolf attack. One type of terrorism enabling another terrorism showed no signs of slowing down this year.

The Canberra Bubble – now made famous by the Prime Minister as the idea that journalists, bureaucrats and politicians in Canberra obsess about Canberra goings-on and ignore the wider community – yet he forgets that Canberra is defined by politics and bureaucracy, and participants in the Canberra Bubble come from other places to do so.

America – the public finally appears to have woken up to the fact that thoughts and prayers were never a satisfactory response to gun violence. The Republican Party are being left behind on this issue by the public; the public led by teenagers and mothers, have decided enough is enough.

The Sun – one year on from the legalisation of same sex marriage, the sun still rises and sets.

The Australian Labor Party – haven’t been without political posturing and histrionics, but by keeping their head below the battlements and letting the LNP implode, have almost certainly guaranteed their return to government next year.

Women – activated by entrenched misogyny, assaults on common decency, general incompetence and events such as the confirmation of Brett Kavanagh to the US Supreme Court, ongoing gun violence and the existence of Donald Trump, highly capable and qualified women have run and won office in the US Mid Term Elections. The same is happening in Australia, with the election of Kerryn Phelps signalling more independent female candidates will be candidates at upcoming elections.

The Losers

Australia Day warriors – the commentariat were apoplectic on social media about any hint that Australia Day was to be moved from January 26 or wasn’t being celebrated hard enough or not at all. Even the Federal Government weighed in, threatening to punish local councils who moved Australia Day celebrations to another day. Few seemed to be able to process the facts that after having already landed in Sydney Cove on January 21 then returning to Botany Bay, the proposed landing of the Fleet in Sydney Cove was delayed a day until January 26, 1788, due to a severe storm, and the formal declaration of the colony of New South Wales took place on February 7. Australia Day has variously been celebrated in July and April, with January 26 becoming the widely accepted date less than a century ago. Whilst the date would therefore seem a moving target, the right-wing outrage industry were united in their confected outrage of the suggestion of any date other than the 26th of January. And the 60,000+ years of indigenous culture is again not part of the debate.

Aung San Suu Kyi – the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and long-time human rights advocate has become de facto leader of Myanmar, yet failed to reign in the military, nor the oppression and genocide of minority Rohingya Muslims by the Buddhist majority. She has been complicit in the silencing of activists and journalists, and Amnesty International has withdrawn her Ambassador of Conscience Award.

The National Party – put aside/wilfully ignored/conveniently ignored Barnaby Joyce’s adultery, dubious creation of a government job for his partner, and entitlements rorting and pre-selected him again for the seat of New England. The endorsement of yesterday’s man to continue to have a role in the National Party has energised a large number of highly capable and qualified rural women to come at the National Party ‘with a big stick’ in an effort to change the Party’s direction.

Abbott – thinks more prayer needed.

SCOMO – anybody who calls the Prime Minister SCOMO needs to grow up, put away the blokey mate act and learn the notion of gravitas. And this means the Prime Minister too, who goes around shopping centres introducing himself as SCOMO. Cringeworthy and embarrassing in equal measure. As a country we are more mature than this, surely?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison – the accidental prime minister thinks his leadership credibility is measured by how blokey he behaves and how loudly he shouts. He ends up displaying all the credibility of the monorail spruiker on The Simpsons, but none of the charm.

The LNP fringe group – who are vocal advocates for both the weakening of racial discrimination laws and the strengthening of laws to allow religious discrimination, yet fails to see this dichotomy doesn’t stand the test of Christian Values.

Every right-wing political commentator and politician – who ignored the widely known suffering caused by sexual assaults carried out by religious practitioners, and dismissed the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse as populist politics and an attack on religious freedom.

Two Thirds of Religious groups – who saw the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse and continue to avoid signing up to the Redress Scheme designed to offer victims of ‘pastoral care’ some degree of compensation.

The word ‘important’ – has been replaced on the street and on televised media by impordnt. Have a listen – even happens on the ABC.

The NRL – the five players charged with sexual assault against a female just in the last month says volumes about the sense of entitlement of the players and negates the usual defence of ‘boys will be boys’.

Trump – has been on the ropes all year due to the mounting evidence of campaign finance fraud, Russian collusion and epic incompetence. The growing amount of indictable evidence being given against him by his inner circle will put an end to his Presidency before the end of 2019.

Banks & Financial Institutions – who prioritised shareholder value over customer service and basic decency. The appearances of their CEOs and board Chairs at the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (which had been dismissed by those with allegiances to the industry as rank populism and socialism) was to see the mighty squirm. Under pressure to justify charging fees to dead customers, document forgery and lying to banking regulators, many became defensive and pompous in the witness box. This examination of the industry was overdue and exposed a culture of profit before people that demonstrates their complete distain for their customers’ intelligence, and the exploitation of their power over people’s lives – the complete opposite of the warm and fuzzy image the industry presents in its advertising.

Domestic Violence Victims – The press response to the threat of needles in strawberries, the offenders labelled ‘grubs’ and ‘cowards’, resulted in an instant new law with a maximum 15 years in gaol. A shark attack brings a shark summit, culling, and publicity like the Australian beach culture is under siege. Yet 68 Australian women have died violently due to domestic violence so far in 2018 and there is silence. No national outcry, no posturing in Parliament. The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education study in July 2018 found a 40 per cent increase in domestic violence on State of Origin rugby league nights. Like the number of victims, this piece of research barely made the news.

Greg Smart

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.