With the handing down of the federal budget update earlier this week, the year has pretty much drawn to a close for the watchers of Australian politics.
But before we pack away our parliamentary handbooks, opinion polls and crystal balls, let’s reflect on the year that was by handing out a few “awards”.
‘Best comeback’ award: Pauline Hanson
Nothing sums up the state of Australian politics better than the triumphant return of Pauline Hanson to the Australian Parliament.
The minority views espoused by the flame-haired fish and chip shop owner almost 20 years ago are now well and truly mainstream opinion, demonstrated by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation winning four (almost five) Senate positions in this year’s federal election.
Given the washed-up, ex-politician who was hounded to jail by her political opponents has been re-elected, controls a decisive bloc of votes in the Senate, and has a cohort of supporters that’s been growing strongly since the election, that’s an impressive comeback.
‘In over their head’ award: Rod Culleton
Considerably less impressive this year was Ms Hanson’s former party colleague, Western Australian Senator Rod Culleton, who resigned from One Nation this week after finally working out there’s no “me” in “team player”.
Ever since the senator’s eligibility to even run for Parliament was brought into question, due to him being convicted at the time for stealing a vehicle, the former business entrepreneur’s colourful language and behaviour have left us with no other choice than to conclude that footprints left by a muddied chook would make more sense.
‘Sourpuss (I’m not bitter)’ award: runner up Kevin Rudd, winner Tony Abbott
Not one but two former prime ministers led the field for the sourpuss of the year award.
Kevin Rudd reprised his troublemaker role when the current PM Malcolm Turnbull declined to nominate the former PM for the position of UN Secretary General, noting with temerity that the Ruddster didn’t have the temperament for the chief diplomatic role.
Mr Rudd then set out to prove Mr Turnbull wrong by throwing a spectacular tantrum that involved the leaking of private correspondence and conversations to the media.
Even so, Mr Rudd’s dummy spit was nothing compared to the ongoing destabilisation campaign waged by another former PM, Tony Abbott, and his acolytes this year.
There were international tours and speeches, photo opportunities with foreign heads of state, comments on leaked cabinet papers, wide-ranging interviews with sympathetic media outlets, along with veiled threats and unsubtle musings that culminated in the blatant proposition that further wrecking could only be prevented by the PM returning the formerly unimpressive minister to a Cabinet post.
Not wrecking, not sniping, not bitter at all.
‘Can’t believe his luck’ award: Bill Shorten
The four-leaf clover award for 2016 goes to Opposition leader Bill Shorten, who reportedly came within a whisker of being removed as Labor leader when Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as PM.
However Mr Shorten hung on and deftly rode the decline in Mr Turnbull’s popularity to an almost-win at this year’s federal election. This is despite voters telling researchers from the Australian National University this year that they ranked Mr Shorten lower than the PM on a range of leadership qualities including trustworthiness, decency and honesty.
That leaves the man who likely would have replaced Mr Shorten in this year’s aborted Labor coup, Anthony Albanese, as the winner of this year’s “Can’t believe his (bad) luck” award.
‘Can’t believe it’s not Turnbull’ award: Malcolm Turnbull
And finally, the award for the biggest letdown of the year must go to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
No matter how much voters wanted him to be like the “old Malcolm”, the PM turned out to be more like the much-vaunted non-dairy spread “I can’t believe it’s not butter”.
Just like the un-butter, Mr Turnbull proved to be nothing like the marketing claimed, tending to be slightly oily but without substance, and leaving a bad taste in the mouth of anyone who fell for the hype.