About the best thing you could say for 2019 is that it was so relentlessly and exhaustingly bleak that it felt like it took forever, thus slowing the feeling of humanity careening towards irrevocable calamity.
But, as ever, there were little dots of hope, in particular from the collective actions of the young, who — with wit and determination — pushed back against the hypocrisy, sloth and avarice of public life in 2019.
As the first category of this year’s Crikey Awards shows, there was plenty of that to push back against…
Arsehat of the Year
Angus Taylor: Trying to pithily sum up all Taylor’s embarrassments and alleged malfeasance is like trying to explain the world’s longest-running soap opera in a single sentence. Grassgate. Watergate. The forged documents. Finally, the rancid cherry atop this spoiled sundae: his bizarre Twitter beef with author Naomi Wolf. Fantastic. Great move. Well done Angus.
Christian Porter: The attorney-general has been assiduously hastening Australia’s transition into police state, particularly in his prolonging of the state-sanctioned harassment of Bernard Collaery and Witness K.
Bernard Lane: The Australian really outdid itself this year: Johannes Leak aping his late father’s worst instincts in the cartoon section, and environment editor Graham Lloyd giving a voice to seemingly every climate sceptic and green-hater he could find. But among that was a standout — the weird and utterly gratuitous attacks on trans people, all lead by Bernard “just asking questions” Lane.
Bill Shorten: We hate to kick a guy when he’s down, but we also can’t let him off the hook. Under Shorten’s leadership, Labor failed to convince Australia that a sputtering, chaotic, policy-light and divided Coalition government needed to urgently be replaced. And that failure could cost Australia dearly in the next three years.
Brian Hartzer: How to you not notice 23 million alleged crimes? Hartzer eventually resigned as Westpac CEO (and passed Go, collecting $2.7 million for his trouble) but not before emails leaked of him claiming mainstream Australia was not overly concerned so “we don’t need to overcook this”. Extra points for cancelling the Christmas party.
David Elliott: A quiet achiever in the arsehat stakes, you may remember the NSW corrections minister’s previous nomination for violating an alleged assault victim’s privacy (while shielded by parliamentary privilege). This year he got into a road rage fight with a 17-year-old boy and said he would “want” police to strip search his kids if they were up to something.
Jacqui Lambie: In many ways it’s unfair to lay the blame for repealing the Medivac legislation solely at the feet of Lambie, because a lot of people voted the same way. But when the Tasmanian senator was the deciding vote on Medivac, based on an apparent deal she would not divulge, she removed the small act of compassion the parliament had allowed itself toward those languishing on island prisons in our name.
Gladys Berejiklian: Berejilkian’s government was the lesser of two evils available at this year’s NSW elections. Still, her “now’s not the time to talk about climate change” stance as her state was engulfed in flames, and her steadfast refusal to act on expert advice on pill-testing while teenagers die at music festivals, is what her 2019 will be most remembered for.
People of the Year
Will Connolly: If there’s any justice, the one we call Eggboy will never have to pay for another pint as long as he lives. The attention that followed his simple act of decorating Fraser Anning’s bonce with egg goo resulted in a fundraiser that delivered tens of thousands of dollars to Christchurch survivors.
Kenneth Hayne: His leadership of the banking royal commission, which revealed just how much contempt the big four banks really have for their customers, might have been enough. But Hayne sealed his nomination when, with exquisite grumpiness, he denied the government the chance to get any good PR out of the whole mess. When asked if he might shake Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s hand for a photo op, he gave a flat, colourless, “nope”.
Greta Thunberg: The 16-year-old activist had a busy year, which peaked furiously when she addressed world leaders at the UN about the failures to act in response to climate change.
Climate school strikers: Following Thunberg’s lead, tens of thousands of kids (joined by tens of thousands of adults) skipped out on school to protest government inaction on climate change. If there is hope, it is in their continued momentum.
Jacinda Ardern: The New Zealand Prime Minister’s grace and dignity after the horror of the Christchurch shooting was matched by action, with Ardern swiftly implementing sweeping gun control measures.
Hakeem al-Araibi and Craig Foster: Al-Araibi became a focal point for the ragged arguments around refugees in Australia, and Foster’s tireless work in returning him to Australia after his time in a Thai prison was a brief respite in an otherwise bleak year for refugees.
Graham Perrett: There has been a depressing silence from members of both major parties on the scandal of our government bugging East Timor’s cabinet office, and the judicial bullying of Witness K for revealing it. Perrett was one of the few to break that silence.
The Matildas: We’ll resist the temptation to simply wax lyrical about star striker Sam Kerr’s pace, close control and gun-barrel finishing. This year the women’s football team secured a landmark pay increase, which will (hopefully) change how female sports stars approach pay negotiations in Australia.