“Andrew Barr’s half-hearted contrition over his comments only serves to enhance his reputation for political aloofness and arrogance,” writes Seven Days columnist MIKE WELSH
IT’S funny what lands on your desk. Over the holiday break, a freak wormhole opened up in Canberra’s space-time continuum*, and from it fell a note from the future. The note was dated December 17, 2018, and it was a summary of the hottest news stories from the year. So here, with the possible benefit of future hindsight, I present to you what to watch for in Canberra this year.
ARTS: Following the success of the “Mamma Mia” season, the government goes a step further and lures the world premiere of “William Shakespeare – A Musical Event” to Canberra Theatre. However, all does not go according to plan. It’s not until opening night that the public is informed that the production is not a musical re-imagining of “Hamlet”, “Two Gentlemen of Verona” and “MacBeth”. Instead, patrons are treated to two hours of reworked versions of the Australian 1970s glam-rock hits “My Little Angel” and “Can’t Stop Myself from Loving You”. Despite the promise in the second song title, Canberrans find out quickly that they can, indeed, stop themselves from loving it.
TRANSPORT: Emboldened by a successful attack on the first of the rolling stock, graffiti “artists” continue to attack Canberra’s light rail vehicles as they arrive in Canberra and, indeed, after they enter service. Some brazen attacks take place while the vehicles are in motion.
Canberra Transport supremo Meegan Fitzharris gives up on maintaining the pre-planned colour scheme and announces that all 14 of Canberra’s trams will be decorated with “urban art” motifs. Being Canberra, this leads to a world-first, “alt-graffiti” movement, resulting in several pensioners being arrested after breaking into the overnight storage yard with the intention of restoring the original colours.
THE ACT’s “Lollipop Person” program, which was due to start early in the year, was delayed for several months due to a massive budgetary blowout and bureaucratic snafu. Instead of stop-go lollipops, an unnamed public servant had instead ordered $20,000 worth of Chupa-Chups.
The program was eventually implemented in term two, in conjunction with a driver-focused campaign under the banner “Road Safety – Suck it and See” where drivers doing the right thing were to be rewarded with a lollipop. Six weeks later, that campaign was modified to “any driver not having an accident” as Canberra drivers doing the right thing were too hard to find.
BANS: The increasing amount of graffiti in the city brings about a reaction from Greens leader Shane Rattenbury. He used the party’s balance of power in the Legislative Assembly to have spray paint banned in the ACT from June 30.
In early July, the Greens following Tasmania’s proposed ban on poker machines, ban all forms of gambling in the ACT. Several social club members are immediately arrested for holding renegade chook raffles. Q City Transit reports a massive boom in patronage as Canberrans cross the border en-masse in largely futile attempts to win chops, snags and steaks at Queanbeyan’s clubs.
But in August, Mr Rattenbury finds himself out of the Assembly as the first politician referred to the newly-minted ACT ICAC, after $5 worth of used scratchies are found in his car. “They weren’t mine!” he was heard to cry as he was frogmarched from the chamber…
* Said wormhole would not have opened without the efforts of my 2CC colleagues Jen Seyderhelm and Eddie Williams.