In several ways, 2017 defiantly refused to improve upon the flaming rubbish pile template set by 2016. It’s been a time, and we’re all very tired. But our dear readers summoned one last burst of energy to crown our 2017 Arsehat of the Year and Person of the Year.
Arsehat of the year:
Tony Abbott, for demanding that his constituents be given a voice on the issue of marriage equality and then refusing to vote according to their wishes.
Barnarby Joyce, for humiliating the party he leads and hobbling his coalition partner with his shoddy paperwork, and then drearily whinging his way through the resultant byelection.
David Leyonhjelm for welcoming Milo Yiannopoulos into Parliament House.
91.8% of elected politicians in Australia for supporting offshore detention.
Daniel Andrews for eroding civil liberties in Victoria.
Person of the year:
Chrissie and Anthony Foster for their long, dignified fight for a Royal Commission into child abuse
Kate McClymont for her work with ABC exposing years of allegations regarding Don Burke.
Sally Rugg for her tireless advocacy during the marriage equality debate.
Dr Megan Davis for her role in the Uluru statement from the heart.
Behrouz Boochani for his reporting from inside detention on Manus Island .
Arsehat of the year
Well, what a glittering year it has been in the field of arsehattery. It has been possibly the most competitive field of candidates we’ve ever seen. George Christensen, David Feeney, Pauline Hanson, Sam Dastyari and Malcolm Roberts did some truly magnificent work in wounding our public discourse, eroding our institutions, humiliating themselves and their parties. And not one of them was good enough to even cop a nomination. In what other year could such a luminary as 2015 and 2016 winner Peter Dutton not even get the chance to return for his hat trick?
So perhaps it’s unsuprising our readers couldn’t limit themselves to voting for a single person. Our clear winner this year is the 91.8% of parliamentarians who support offshore detention. After years of blanket secrecy — except for friendly journalists — the closure of the Manus island detention centre in October, and it’s aftermath, showed us in stark clarity just where the queasy bipartisanship on this issue has lead us. The Coalition retreat to secure borders and drownings whenever the topic is raised (somehow shoehorning it into the Bennelong byelection). Labor, still scarred by the efforts of Tony Abbott and News Corp have stuck with the policy put in place by Kevin Rudd — who jumped in desperation to the right of anything Abbott was proposing in the lead up the 2013 election — and can only offer feeble protestations about third country resettlement and mismanagement of the camps. Among the major parties, only five current MPs have taken a public stand opposing it. For Labor, Andrew Giles, and senators Murray Watt, Jenny McAllister and Sue Lines, who confronted opposition Immigration Minister Shayne Neumann over Labor’s silence on the growing human rights crisis in August; and just a single Coalition member, Russell Broadbent has called for an end to the crisis.
Offshore detention has been the site of the deaths of several detainees, attacks upon them by the military and locals. cost taxpayers billions of dollars, it has lead to Australia’s humiliation in international courts, condemnation by the United Nations, it has been the catalyst for further erosion of press freedom, and been another occasion for the executive to trample the oversight the judiciary.
Person of the year
The winner for Person of the year was just as clear cut.
Chrissie and Anthony Foster were dealt the kind of exquisite pain most parents will thankfully never have to endure. Their daughters, Katie and Emma, were raped by paedophile priest Kevin O’Donnell in the mid 1980s. Both turned to chemical dependency to quiet the pain, and neither will have a chance at anything approaching a normal life; Emma succumbed to an overdose at the age of 26, and Katie was left needing 24 hour care after being hit by a drunk driver in 1999.
Under the weight of the kind of unimaginable misfortune that would crush many, the Fosters focused their pain into a fight for justice that lasted decades which reached, if not culmination, a milestone this year in the handing down of the report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Anthony, sadly, did not live to see the commission’s findings be handed down, felled by stroke in May of this year. But the spotlight he and Chrissie dedicated their lives to bringing about, which illuminated the processes by which the most horrific crimes were covered up and the perpetrators protected, within some of the biggest institutions of Australia, can never be dimmed.