Federal Politics


Vroom for all types in our city

Some residents of the ACT's inner north woke with relief on Monday, knowing their nights this week will be a little more peaceful. The occasional shriek of spinning tyres has become an annual intrusion on the folk of Watson and surrounding suburbs, who suffer the noise of the four-day Summernats festival more acutely than most Canberrans.

Whingeing about this car show is another annual rite. Indeed, at times, the complaining seems just as loud as the engines and burnouts. It began on Thursday last week, when some citizens - particularly on social media - grumbled about the minor traffic disruption caused by a brief parade of vehicles along Northbourne Avenue. Nonetheless, there are more substantive grievances, too, caused by the handful of hoons who tear through quiet suburban streets late at night, disrupting residents.

Summernats has always divided this city and it will no doubt continue to do so. Some Canberrans find the adoration of cars incomprehensible and will never support the event, no matter how briefly it affects them. The festival also has some ugly history that remains fresh in many people's memories: the street riots of the 1990s; the regularity of assaults on the site; and, of course, the vulgar misogyny that was as much a part of Summernats as the vehicles - so much so that it was common to the point of being unremarkable of patrons to approach women and demand: ''Show us your tits!''

Yet the festival's organisers and security staff have tried genuinely in recent years to rid Summernats of these unpleasant aspects. And, to a large extent, they have succeeded. Gone are the wet T-shirt competition and the strippers who were once synonymous with the event. ACT Policing also praised the festival this week as relatively safe, even though, inevitably, its officers issued about 100 fines and warnings to careless motorists.

Summernats' organisers are to be applauded for ensuring the festival remains focused on what makes it memorable: its show cars. These magnificent works are the imaginative products of years of toil by their dedicated owners. Canberrans should be proud, not ashamed, to host Australia's finest car festival, which continues to attract devotees from across the country. Its art might not suit everyone's tastes, but it brings delight to many.

This is not to say we condone the noisy, at-times illegal antics of the few idiots who rock up each year. We simply suggest it's unfair to use these hoons to judge the tens of thousands of other people who take part in Summernats and who appreciate the ingenuity on display.

Indeed, those who suggest the event is somehow inherently improper would no doubt be shocked by the goings-on of a typical Saturday night in Civic. Summernats has no monopoly on loutish behaviour and drunkenness; we suffer at least some of that every weekend of the year.