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15 of our best comment pieces of 2015

Highlights from the Herald's opinion pages in 2015 - our most-read, most-discussed, most-shared pieces (plus a few editors' favourites).

1. Three excuses for the Bali nine death penalty - and why they're all sickeningly wrong (Amy Corderoy)

The executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Indonesia in April for drug-trafficking crimes they committed in 2005 horrified many Australians, but others argued their deaths were justified. 

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Bali nine: Waleed Aly on the injustices of the case

The Project host compiles a damning list of how Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were let down, right up to their last hours.

"When Chan and Sukumaran die I will feel for them," the Herald's Corderoy wrote. "I will think of their grieving families, of their brutal, bloody deaths and just the sickening waste of it all. And I hope those Australians safely on their moral high-ground will pause for just a moment, and think about just what it is they have been advocating for."

Read the piece in full.
 

2. Why Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran never stood a chance (Waleed Aly)

"Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are not simply the victims of their own crimes and a sadly corrupted judicial process," wrote Fairfax columnist and The Project host Waleed Aly, but "collateral damage in our War on Terror.

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"This was 2005. Three years after the Bali bombings, three months before London. We were in the throes of the War on Terror, worried about Indonesian terrorist groups and desperate to beef up Indonesian policing. We wanted their co-operation on terrorism, they wanted our co-operation on drugs. The Bali nine fit this bill."

Read the piece in full.

3. Royal Commission into Knox Grammar sexual abuse: Peter FitzSimons retells a scandal

Peter FitzSimon's alma mater, Knox Grammar School, was the subject of a Royal Commission hearing in February into an alleged paedophile ring, but it didn't reflect his or his brother's experience at the school, except for one incident that he heard of involving an inappropriate interaction between a teacher and a student.

"What happened then, in the 1980s and 1990s, which is the primary era that the Royal Commission is investigating, I have no clue about, but am appalled by the testimony so far. I do not doubt the body of the testimony of the victims who have come forward – there are too many to deny, and their testimony too cohesive – and I feel for the terrible abuse that they have suffered."

Read the piece in full.

4. Australia doesn't have a problem with alcohol. We have a problem with violence  (Tim Gregg)

An expat's experience of living in Germany made him question the relationship between drinking and social mayhem at home.

"Compared to King's Cross or the Melbourne CBD, Berlin's myriad nightlife districts are peaceful – almost serene. You can party all night long without witnessing so much as a heated argument.  In four years I have not encountered a single instance of unprovoked aggression."

Read the piece in full.

5. How a racist attack ruined a family's day out (Asma Fahmi)

It was meant to be a rare family outing for Asma, her sister and her mother, but it did not turn out that way.

"As my sister headed into her brand new car, I spotted a hard boiled egg land to the right of us. It was a painted egg, similar to the ones my Greek friends used to give me at Easter time.  I saw one of the guys throw another one, this time headed straight for me. I quickly dived behind the car. My sister was yelling at me, urging me to get into the car but I was determined to take a photo of these men. Then they threw something else that landed on the car parked next to ours. Parts of the car flew off and glass shattered on the ground."

Read the piece in full.

6. Why parents should share a bed with their children (Sam de Brito)

The Herald, along with our readers, mourned the death of long-time columnist Sam de Brito in October. His final column was a poignant tribute to his beloved daughter on the benefits of parental co-sleeping.

"Like most aspects of child-rearing, you can find a fistful of studies that support either side of the co-sleeping argument, yet the experience of sharing a bed with my daughter has produced an intimate, intuitive, deeply affectionate relationship. I don't need to guess if she's sick, can't sleep, feels anxious or had a nightmare, because I was there."

Read the piece in full.



7. You don't have a career. You have a life  (Elizabeth Farrelly)

Columnist Elizabeth Farrelly's piece on the "destructive myth of professionalism" in October resonated particularly with readers. 

"Where 'professional' once meant 'bound to higher truths,' it now denotes payment. Professional dancers, politicians, footballers are those who do it for money. What this indicates is professionalism's slide down the moral razor. Now what we leave at home is not petty emotion but conscience," she wrote.

"This is professionalism, where we leave our deeper wisdom at home and take our brisk, bankable, morally pliant machine-selves into our working (and voting) lives."

Read the piece in full.

8. How it happened: Inside the Malcolm Turnbull leadership coup (Peter Hartcher)

"[Tony] Abbott hastened to convene his war council. It was too late. The war was already lost, but the leader was about to try an extreme manoeuvre in a forlorn effort to save himself," Peter Hartcher wrote in an account of the year's second - successful - Liberal leadership spill.

"It was the worst kept secret in Australian politics that [Malcolm] Turnbull, who had the Liberal leadership wrested from him by Abbott five years and nine months earlier, was determined to take it back."

Read the piece in full.

9. The sacking of Tony Abbott was personal. It was also about the removal of Peta Credlin (Paul Sheehan)

"The Liberal leadership coup was about the polls, it was policies, it was captain's picks, but it was also personal – deeply personal. The sacking of Tony Abbott by his own colleagues was not just about self-preservation, it was about internal dysfunction. The coup was thus a double decapitation: the Prime Minister and his too-powerful, micromanaging, forceful, feud-enmeshed chief of staff, Peta Credlin. Both were terminated with prejudice," wrote Sheehan on the spill.

Read the piece in full.

10. Abuse inside Christian marriages – a personal story (anonymous)

The Herald doesn't often publish anonymous opinion pieces, but when we do it's for a very good reason, such as this account of one woman's submission and abuse inside her marriage to a devout Christian man.

 "My then husband was supposedly a Christian, a very pious, rather obsessive one. He was a great amateur preacher, very encouraging to his friends and evangelistically inclined. He led Bible studies. He wanted to train for the ministry," she wrote.

"He just had one little problem. He liked psychologically torturing me. And dragging me by the hair around our apartment. And punching me – hard, whilst telling me how pathetic I was. He gave me lists with highlighted sections of Bible passages about nagging wives and how I should submit to him. I was subjected to almost the full catalogue of abusive behaviour."

11. ICC Cricket World Cup: Alcohol-drenched culture needs to change (Michael Thorn)

A mix of alcohol, sport and TV advertising is detrimental to the nation's health, argued Michael Thorn of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.

"Alcohol companies advertise during sporting events, and sponsor sports and teams so as to link sporting success with alcohol and to reach our children, the next generation of potential drinkers," he wrote.

"And they do it very successfully."

 

12. I'm proud to be a feminist, despite my regular lapses (Annabel Crabb)

Author and Fairfax columnist Annabel Crabb on embracing imperfect feminism:

"Sometimes I do stuff which I'm frightened Germaine Greer will find out I like doing. Like wearing high heels, even though I totally get that they are a gendered attack on women and a pointless encumbrance designed to sap our speed and agility and maliciously get us stuck in gratings (In my mind, I reason that they are no stupider than the necktie). Or loving the clothing and kitchenalia of the 1950s, and not even in an ironic way; bakelite actually really does make my heart beat faster, and I find aprons both practical and beautiful."

Read the piece in full.

13. I'm grieving for a stranger - a homeless man I found lifeless after a cold night (Laura Watts)

Laura Watts' emotional account of finding a homeless man dead on her way to work at The Wayside Chapel on a cold July morning shocked and stirred readers. 

"There was a quiet moment when there were just the two of us. Me on my knees with my hand on his arm; him on his back staring blankly up to the sky. I wondered when someone had last cried for this dear man. Did he have a child? Were his parents still alive? I wished I knew a prayer, but all I had for him were my tears," she wrote.

Read the piece in full.
 

14. The national emergency we can no longer ignore (John Brogden)

Former NSW Opposition Leader and Lifeline Australia chairman John Brodgen used his own experience of mental illness to call for suicide to be declared a national emergency.

"Ten years ago today I sat in a bed at Royal North Shore Hospital sedated, bandaged, scheduled under the mental health act and under suicide watch," he wrote.

"The night before I had tried to kill myself."

Read the piece in full

15. Do you ever get over the death of a dog? (Richard Glover)

And finally, Richard Glover's ode to his adored, recently departed kelpie Darcy broke the hearts of all readers who had ever loved a dog:

"They say, in the moments before death, your life is replayed at high speed. I don't know if that's true, but as I walked home from the vet, an empty dog collar in my hand, my partner sobbing beside me, scenes from Darcy's life filled my head."

Read the piece in full.

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