A column about 2005

At midnight on 31 December, when the City of Sydney Council lights up the naff-sounding pulsating heart it’s putting on the Harbour Bridge to welcome in the new year, I for one will be absolutely delighted to see the back of 2005.

It’s customary at this time of year to serve up a nostalgic year-in-review piece, looking back on all the great moments of the year that was. But to be honest, I can’t think of many. In fact, the year’s been so full of awful moments that Bec and Lleyton’s wedding doesn’t even make the top 20.

So let’s relive some of the doom and gloom, shall we? If nothing else, it will fill us with hope that 2006 couldn’t possibly be as bad as 2005.

We should have guessed it was going to be a disastrous year after seeing it in with Leo Schofield’s giant mirror ball and techno remix of ‘Advance Australia Fair’. Although I have to pay tribute to him for finding a way of making that song sound worse.

But Leo’s mistakes weren’t the worst thing about the year’s beginning, of course. As the year began, we were all in shock from the devastation of the Boxing Day tsunami, whose brutal impact on the region’s poorest and most vulnerable shocked Australia out of its post-Christmas hangover, inspiring us all to open our wallets for something other than slabs and dial-a-pizza. A minute of silence was held at 9pm on New Year’s Eve, and Oxfam volunteers were everywhere collecting – an idea that is sensibly continuing this year, especially given the millions we’re wasting on fireworks.

There were numerous other natural disasters as well, most notably the earthquake in Kashmir that killed than 80,000 Pakistanis, and Hurricane Katrina. Which was followed by the man-made disaster that was the relief effort, exacerbated by the absence of so many National Guard troops who were off dealing with another man-made disaster – Iraq.

Bearing no connection whatsoever with Iraq, of course, is Al Qaeda. Bombings in London and Bali reminded us that the war on terror is far from over, and the attacks on two of Australia’s favourite homes away from home shocked us all yet again.

Our eyes never really left Bali all year, given the drug-related jams many young Australians got into. Schapelle Corby was acquitted by public opinon and the Channel Nine worm – an even more unreliable judge than the ones in Bali, who felt differently. While Michelle Leslie escaped, only to be punished all over again by the Australian media.

Saddest of all was the execution of Van Nguyen, which unleashed a wave of sympathy from the Australian public, and a wave of inflexibility from Singapore. And worse is probably to come with the sad, foolish tale of the Bali 9. Let’s hope that next year, young Australian drug smugglers don’t dare ply their trade in Asia. Or at least do it more successfully.

But it wasn’t exactly a vintage year at home, either. Most importantly of course in sport, where our cricket, rugby union and rugby league teams all took drubbings. It’s a truly bizarre year where the only sporting highlight comes from the Socceroos.

Being such impressively rabid left-wing voters, most readers of this newspaper won’t have been particularly ecstatic about the year’s political developments either. It was a year of a triumphant Prime Minister ramming through legislation despite substantial opposition. The legislation on IR, terror laws, sedition, work for welfare and the sale of Telstra all breezed through, finishing up with VSU, which got through at the last minute thanks to a Family First Senator Steven Fielding who won only 1.9% of the primary vote, and was elected only thanks to Labor preferences. Another brilliantly self-defeating bit of political strategy from the party that was led by Simon Crean.

To cap it all off, Glebe readers had to endure this column every fortnight. So all in all, a horrible year. Let’s all hope that next year is far rosier. And there is some prospect of John Howard’s retirement after ten years in the job, which alone would make 2006 a fantastic year. Yes, even if he’s replaced by Peter Costello. Or even Kim Beazley.

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