This year in politics was a bit of a bin fire, with not a lot to smile about.
COVID-19, lockdowns, repeated scandals and outrages about the treatment of women, politicians dragging their heels on vital reforms and never-ending ugly episodes inside federal Parliament itself.
It has been a tough 12 months, and it was sometimes hard to find a silver lining.
But AusPol in 2021 also offered its share of bizarre, unexpected and downright silly moments, giving rare moments of levity to an otherwise crummy year.
In the spirit of looking for the light, here are some of the political happenings that made us giggle, shake our heads, or just stare in befuddlement.
Bob Katter, ‘I’m very confused’
The Member for Kennedy really spoke for all of us, deep in the procedural doldrums of a procedural back and forth in Parliament.
Liberal MP Bridget Archer had crossed the floor to back Helen Haines’ integrity commission bill, against the government’s wishes, and rookie Speaker Andrew Wallace – barely days into his new job – had mistakenly ruled the motion successful.
He shouldn’t have, and it set off a long and painful series of rulebooks being quoted and procedure being debated.
It was hard enough for anyone to keep up, so Mr Katter gave voice to more than a few of us when he admitted he hadn’t the foggiest idea what was going on.
Leaving the cave
“It’s like that movie The Croods,” Scott Morrison said in August, as he tried to explain his latest stance on the national reopening plan.
Many Australians agreed – once they got over their initial confusion, fired up their computers and asked “What is The Croods?”
The PM’s off-beat reference to the 2013 kids’ movie wasn’t exactly an instantly recognisable quote, and the comparison of Western Australians to cave people from the Pixar movie didn’t go down well with those in the Free People’s Republic of McGowanistan.
Still, it’s not every day that a leader talks up his fondness for forgettable CGI films, and this one really tickled us.
Craig Kelly’s $1 trillion notes
Former Liberal MP Craig Kelly had one of the more colourful stunts in Parliament this year, designing and printing his own lines of bank notes to make a point about rising government debt.
He produced hundreds of fake $1 trillion notes with the face of famous bushranger Ned Kelly, bundled them up and stuck them on a wooden crate.
His stunt represented hundreds of trillions of dollars, far higher than Australia’s debt and many times the amount of money circulating in the entire world.
The notes became something of a novelty collector’s item in Canberra, as Mr Kelly gave them away after the press conference.
Mr Kelly was the centre of much of the controversy and debate this year, including a memorable clash with Labor’s Tanya Plibersek in February.
She took aim at him for his constant boosting of discredited COVID-19 ‘treatments’, in a fiery corridor encounter that spawned some truly iconic images.
Michael McCormack’s mice
Michael McCormack lost his title as deputy prime minister in another party room spill, but he finishes 2021 as the holder of one of the year’s weirdest moments after suggesting mice breeding in plague proportions in rural Australia be “rehomed” in inner-city apartments.
The former Nationals leader, yelling in question time, said he wanted the rodents sent to the big cities “so they can nibble away at their food and their feet at night, and scratch their children at night”.
It seemed like a complicated logistical exercise, and luckily it never became official government policy.
Kerry Chant’s glasses
NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant has been the centre of the COVID response of Australia’s largest state for two years, and has had more late nights and long days than you’ve had hot dinners.
She has had one of the country’s toughest jobs, and (reportedly) had to push her health advice against government wishes to open up faster; it has been a rough trot.
But she became a meme when her glasses broke during a crucial press conference, and persevered with a set of lopsided frames perched precariously on her face.
Her slight embarrassment was clear to see, but it became a real symbol of how many people felt through COVID – a bit confused, a bit battered and sub-par, but trucking on regardless.
Dr Chant wasn’t the only CHO making memes this year – her South Australian counterpart Nicola Spurrier raised eyebrows with her ‘helpful’ suggestion for staying safe at the footy.
If the ball comes at you, she advised, don’t touch it – because of COVID risk.
Perhaps the SA CHO had more faith in The Matrix-like ducking abilities and reflexes of Adelaide locals, but it truly was among the more novel health advice given this pandemic (although the state did go into a lockdown based on fears about the transmission potential of a takeaway pizza box).
‘Go the Blues’
Professor Spurrier wasn’t the only football meme of the year.
Before she stood aside in the face of an ICAC investigation, former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian prompted widespread confusion by posting this utterly weird photo before the rugby league State of Origin.
Decked in a Blues scarf and beanie, Ms Berejiklian stood stock still in front of a TV on the wall, clutching an unopened can of Coke Zero, four hours before the game started.
It was weird gear, and became an instant viral hit, with even her own (then) deputy John Barilaro imitating it.
‘Not that way!’
Honestly, how good is Jane Malysiak?
She was just a regular Sydney pensioner on the morning she became the first Australian to get a COVID vaccine.
By the afternoon, she was on her way to becoming an instant national icon, after accidentally flipping a two-fingered salute to the entire country on live TV while posing for a photo op with Mr Morrison.
She later admitted she didn’t really know who he was before the cameras started snapping.
Ms Malysiak has since started referring to the PM as “my boyfriend”, and returned to the spotlight as she got her booster shot alongside Mr Morrison.
Remember the 11am anticipation for COVID numbers through the mid-year lockdowns?
In a year of weird gear, perhaps the most bizarre (for a short time, at least) was the mystery of how a TikTok ‘comedian’ named Jon-Bernard Kairouz managed to “predict” the numbers the night before.
It became an overnight media sensation, and he appeared to enjoy trolling journalists by maintaining he’d figured out an “equation” to forecast the number.
Later investigation found he was likely being leaked the numbers from inside NSW Health, and after a reported “sting” by embarrassed NSW politicians, Kairouz picked a number wrong and promptly quit.
He later turned up at anti-lockdown rallies, calling himself “the people’s premier”. 2021 was weird.
‘Drink it all’
The milkshake video really stumped a lot of people.
Produced for the education department to teach about consent, its odd framing, Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy-esque narration and strained metaphors on sharks, tacos and milkshakes really confused a lot of people.
Part of the series was later pulled after embarrassment for the federal government.
The twerking navy dancers
It wasn’t a conventional way to christen a new warship, and gosh this set off a discourse.
When the navy commissioned a new vessel, the 101 Doll Squadron dance group was booked to perform at the ceremony.
The footage went viral, and led to some sheepish lighthearted remarks from Defence Minister Peter Dutton to downplay the controversy.
But later, the ABC came under fire for allegedly misleading editing of its report on the ceremony, making it seem like dignitaries – including the Governor-General – were watching the dance, when they hadn’t yet arrived.
The dance troupe called out the ABC for “deceptive editing” and claimed they had been unfairly criticised.
“Our enemies and our foes out there are going to be twerking in their boots when they see this vision,” joked deputy Labor leader Richard Marles.