The nominees for Australia’s (if not the world’s) most prestigious awards — the 2018 Arsehat of the Year and 2018 Person of the Year — were harder to narrow down than you might imagine.
While both 2016 and 2017 delivered an apocalyptic feeling that everything was unraveling, at least events felt like they meant something.
But 2018 has been a different beast altogether — a weary, dispirited beast. We have been drowning in mediocrity, watching a vast field all scrambling to come equal last.
Public life in 2018 was a bland, stodgy porridge of incompetence, with the occasional empty sugar hit of meaningless provocation. There was some truly hateful bile spat into our faces by various people. Too many to list here, in fact. These people seem to exist largely to expel pollution into the public debate, and we’ve chosen not to reward their efforts with the attention they so crave. Frankly, their names are not worth remembering, let alone repeating.
But there were a few pin pricks of light this year. People who stood against government attempts to bully and silence them, held the powerful to account, people who took on their employer’s trampling of civil liberties, or simply pushed the public debate beyond the tired, stale ideas that have come to dominate it. As a balance to everything else, we gratefully offer the nominees for Crikey‘s person of 2018.
Without further ado…
Arsehat of the Year nominees
Barnaby Joyce: Remember when we nominated Joyce last year? Boy, did he have a bit left in the tank in 2018. The revelation of his extramarital affair (going on at precisely the same time he was warning of the dangers of marriage equality) and his handling of it destroyed any chance the Coalition could breath some clean air after a disastrous 2017.
Luke Foley and David Elliott: Whether or not you believe the sexual harassment allegations against him, Foley would make this list solely for his response to them. Rather than resign with something approaching dignity, he threatened to sue journalist Ashleigh Raper, who had reluctantly detailed his alleged behaviour. And then there’s David Elliott, who violated Raper’s privacy from the safety of parliamentary privilege in an act of sordid point-scoring.
Mark Knight: For doing his bit to feed the constant vitriol against Melburnians of “African Appearance” and then humiliating Australia on the world stage with his hideously racist depiction of Serena Williams.
Michelle Guthrie and Justin Milne: Joint effort in completely mismanaging and misunderstanding the point of the ABC — the one Australian institution still able to retain some public faith.
Steve Smith: For ruining the reputation of the Australian Cricket team beyond anything we could have previously imagined. Forget David Warner; Smith was captain and he knew what was going on. By depriving the team of its best player (himself), he consigned Australia to constant defeat for the foreseeable future.
Rebel Wilson: The worst of a litigious bunch of celebs this year, Wilson’s tactics in trying to sue a publication out of existence has the potential to chill journalism in Australia for years to come.
Peter Dutton: Two-time Crikey arsehat winner Dutton has to go above and beyond his usual race-baiting and breathtaking inhumanity toward refugees to get a nod these days. And he managed it, bringing down a government and (almost certainly) his own party because he was so sure he could be prime minister he didn’t bother checking if he actually had the numbers.
Person of the Year nominees
Saxon Mullins: For her bravery in detailing her alleged rape, and the conversation around consent and the law that it has brought about.
Rowena Orr: For her incisive, whip-smart questioning of crooked bank executives in the royal commission, bringing to light shocking financial crimes.
Anita Jacoby: For being the one board member of AACTA to push back against the organisation’s servile and obsequious letter to Geoffrey Rush following the sexual harassment claims levelled against him.
Witness K and Bernard Collaery: For their brave and principled stance, first in revealing Australia’s illegal bugging of Timor-Leste, and then in facing relentless government harassment, intimidation, and now the attempt to imprison both.
Angela Williamson: Williamson’s strong (and savvy) response to being fired from Cricket Australia (in disgraceful circumstances) for pro-choice tweets fed a wider conversation about access to safe abortion in Australia and workplace culture towards women in particular.
Tim Soutphommasane: Our former race discrimination commissioner’s indefatigable commitment to calling out racism (a full-time job in Australia at the best of times, and 2018 was decidedly not the best of times) was only brought into sharper relief when we met his replacement, who doesn’t think it’s his place to decide what’s racist.
Hannah Gadsby: Gadsby’s stand up special Nanette, by turns stirring and sobering, brought her well deserved international recognition and perfectly reflected and informed post MeToo discussions about gender, power and entitlement.