News National Michael Pascoe’s Olde Almanacke: An ode to 2021
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Michael Pascoe’s Olde Almanacke: An ode to 2021

We all wanted to give 2020 the elbow, in one shape or another. Photo: TND/Getty
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Through fire, coronavirus and Scott Morrison promotional shoots, the curse lives on: One Pascoe of each generation fated to play New Year’s Eve stenographer for the contents of a Satanic sea chest, the result of a Cornish pirate captain’s pact with the devil as the tide rose above him on a Caribbean sandbar.

My forebears have attempted burning it, burying it, drowning it, blasting it with cannon, but the thing unfailingly reappears. Once I even tried listing it among the included contents of a Sydney house sale – surely the greater evil power of Sydney real estate would overcome it? No.

Like the ’Rona, it is un-alive but living, known but unpredictable, insidiously pervasive and always evolving. Not with the usual chorus of rattling chains, screams and jungle drums did the thing announce itself on Thursday night, but with booming coughs and all-encompassing wheezing underpinned by the piercing monotone of a flatlining heart monitor.

It wasn’t the old beating, oozing sea chest beyond the attic door, but a sphere like the mines that blocked the Dardanelles, dripping with something red-black and sticky, its spikes impaling face masks, Uber Eats satchels and Donald Trump voodoo dolls.

An ice-blue hologram flickers into being around the thing’s circumference and the instructions begin in spidery script …

Some call it a Steve Bannon mutation. Some say it’s Sky News After Dark with less irony. I only know it as Olde Pascoe’s Almanacke.

2021 Constants

Occasional leakage of the microscopic beastie from quarantine; regular “look at me” statements from Franking Wilson, Banks’ Bragg, Poles Patterson and the IPA in general confirming what everybody already thought of them; permanent hope that the next round of vaccine will stop the ’Rona; the one area of total discipline among federal Liberal members holds true – none reveals any sign of human decency regarding the Biloela family, none is prepared to turn “political terrorist” on their behalf. Search parties still out for the Opposition.

2021 Specifics

January

Despite the evidence of what’s between several Queensland Senators’ ears, Nature abhors a vacuum – so in the absence of the National Cabinet until February, the Federal and State Opposition leaders form the National Shadow Cabinet.

At an al fresco media conference attended by a passing street cleaner, two bin chickens and the compulsory three masked nodding mutes in the background, National Shadow Cabinet senior shadow, Albonce, declared a new dawn for Australian leadership.

“After all,” he said, “everyone agrees the greatest strength of every Australian government is the quality and cut-through of its opposition.”

Senator Matt Canavan (LNP, Qld) rejects the single-word change to the national anthem because we are not one and we are young – as long as you ignore the world’s oldest continuous civilisation – but mainly because he hopes it will get him more attention than wearing blackface.*

Matt Canavan loves coal, and making a scene. Photo: Twitter

February

The non-shadow National Cabinet, renamed the Spotlight National Cabinet to ensure differentiation, is resuscitated with PM Scott ‘Stunt’ Morrison pre-announcing to select outlets he would be reannouncing his 2020 announcements of Australians being at the front of the queue for numerous vaccines any month now.

He’s our PM and he builds chicken coops. He’s just like us.

Over the hiatus, the government’s several thousand media advisers and spinners develop and now debut a New Improved Artificial Intelligence program for dealing with media inquiries, anticipating and pre-empting questions, saving valuable time for trips to Bunnings and allowing Stunt to start his media conference by saying:

“I reject the premise of your question. Just because lots of other nations are already shooting up, it doesn’t mean we weren’t at the front of the queue. It’s a long queue and it’s taking us a while to walk back from the front of it.

“Next question?

“Yes, I am aware of the great demand for copies of my Man of the Land series. We’ll be issuing an unlimited edition of giclee prints that community groups and councils will be wise to order if they hope to score any grants this year. Thanks very much, that’s all for now, my photographer wants to catch the light for my upcoming Kong Kong-inspired Man of Parliament House poster.”

March

Premier Marky Mark creams the WA state election, calls it a long-overdue referendum on secession and commences negotiations for an alliance with the Queensland Premier, Ms QueenslandforQueenslanders.

What’s left of the WA opposition conducts the now-traditional state ritual of dumping whoever was the leader, replacing him or her with whoever will be dumped next.

Former Senator Cormannator, back from failing to convince the OECD it needs a climate-denying Thatcherite as its Secretary General, declines the offer of the job. “I might be a climate-denying Thatcherite, but I’m not that stupid,” he says.

April

The usual outlets commence the month by devoting most of their front pages to artfully shot photographs of PM Stunt Morrison, dressed as a gondolier, picking spaghetti from the “pasta tree” on the lawns of Kirribilli House.

Jen and the girls, for some reason in matching Tyrolean costumes, stand nearby in open-mouthed wonder. (Jen has one index finger on the corner of her mouth, which some subsequently see as forming the letter Q.) The accompanying headlines are all variations of “PM Jokemeister!” “Top Dad Joke!” “All In Fun!” “PM Wag!”

In an attempt to keep WA in the Commonwealth and revenue from iron ore rolling into Canberra, Sandgroper federal members “Sassy” Hastie and “Nobody Saw Me” Porter offer to headquarter the ADF in the West and relocate to Freemantle whatever submarine construction work isn’t completed in Adelaide by 2050 i.e. most of it.

May

Treasurer Just Joshing denies he has brought down an election budget, saying every electorate earmarked for multi-billion-dollar grants was entitled to them as long as said electorates knew what was good for them.

“We have applied exactly the same Community Development Grants principles that we have since 2014,” he says.

“The only slight difference this year is the scale of our commitments, in keeping with the needs of our base, er, I mean the Australian people on the Road to Rona Recovery.”

‘Nobody Photographed Me’ Porter warns any journalist repeating the “our base” part of that quote will be given a new name, starting with “Witness” and ending with a single-letter.

You might think there’s a man in this picture, but for legal reason, there isn’t. Photo: AAP

“Sassy” Hastie issues a media release taking credit for the Budget halving the $116 million allocated in December for the Office of the Special Investigator examining alleged Afghanistan war crimes.

“Believe half of what you see, none of what you hear, eh?” he says.

June

Lawyers representing Kylie Jenner commence legal action against Stunt Shop Inc, claiming the Prime Minister’s range of tees, hoodies, phone cases, socks, underwear and pins are all direct copies of The Kylie Shop items, only the branding changed.

“There’s no way Mr Morrison could claim Kylie’s golden thongs are his, or so we hope,” a spokesman for Ms Jenner says.

“But he’s welcome to all his Dad, Father of the Nation, Sportsman and How Good Is posters.”

Senator “Fallujah” Molan (Lib, NSW) declares war on China. China fails to notice.

July

Premier QueenslandforQueenslanders announces talks have broken down with Premier Marky Mark over plans to form the Frontier Australia Alliance secession movement, even though WA agreed to share elements of the ADF with the north-east state.

“Clive Palmer proved to be too much, as usual,” said Ms QueenslandforQueenslanders.

There she is, Queensland’s gal.

“WA was concerned that including him as a Frontier Australian would lower the tone of their filthy rich people and unfortunately we can’t expel him. Under the constitution we’re adopting, once a Queenslander, always a Queenslander, eh? So we’re going our own way, also as usual. My door is always open for Marky Mark if he wants another chat, but.”

Canberra’s Mid-Winter Ball exclusively sponsored by Bunnings.

August

Mad Hatter Katter (Qld, Mad Hatter) revives his own FNQ secession plans, or at least that’s what most people think he was trying to stay during a two-hour rave involving a giant power of scissors, a role of barbed wire and a post hole shovel.

Opposition Leader Albonce media conferences down to attendance by a single bin chicken after the Prime Ministerial AI Media Control Unit starts giving the press gallery Albonce’s talking points, their questions and Albonce’s answers the day before.

Not an Albonce media conference.

Uproar in the House when Zali Steggles alleges heroic pictures of Stunt Morrison on the Giant Slalom and his Building a Snowman for Jen and the Girls series were all photoshopped. Specifically, Ms Steggles shouts across the chamber: “There’s no bloody snow this year, you climate-denying bastards!”

“You Can’t Prove A Thing” Porter later warns her that Independent MPs certainly aren’t immune from the new witness “protection” scheme he is secretly developing – and don’t even think of reporting that.

September

PM Stunt Morrison launches a spring offensive with a six-episode documentary series on his role in teaching the Sharkies everything they know. To cover all bases, the Media Control Brigade also releases photographs on a geographically-targeted basis of the PM with the balls of other codes, all captioned, “I do hold the ball, mate”.

Opposition Leader Albonce counterattacks by having a South Sydney bunny tattooed on his forehead.

The NRL and AFL seasons are suspended when the apparent coincidence of all Queensland teams simultaneously hosting home games is revealed as a cunning plan – Premier QueenslandforQueenslanders impounds all players, demanding the codes agree to hold their grand finals in Queensland in perpetuity.

October

Premier Marky Mark reopens Frontier Australia Alliance negotiations, offering to swap the air force for the AFL grand final every other year.

“Sassy” Hastie, promoted to Defence Minister since the unexplained disappearance of his predecessor (name redacted), announces the Office of the Special Investigator would be wound down as “we’ve heard quite enough, thank you”.

China asks WHO to investigate the origins of the cross-party parliamentary Friends of Coal group. “We’re worried what the potential impact of concentrating the Kelly/Fitzgibbon/Canavan/Christensen/Roberts/Rennick brains trust in a small space,” says WHO.

“Nobody is sure how black holes start.”

Treasurer Joshing slips Foxtel another $300 million to enable the broadcasting of “things not currently broadcast”. Joshing says the grant will be budget neutral as funding of SBS is being discontinued.

Just smile and nod and say, ‘Yes, how lovely’. Photo: AAP

November

Newspaper readers awake to photographs of PM Stunt Morrison riding trackwork with the Melbourne Cup favourite. Flemington at dawn, roses resplendent in the foreground, wisps of mist behind, the rising sun touches his face with a golden hue as he delivers a confident wink and smile. The Media Control Division has assured him he has picked the winner – or there will be a lot of jockeys called Witness.

With the Treasurer’s permission, RBA Governor “Low for Long Time” Lowe announces the cash rate will be adjusted by 0.01 per cent in one direction or the other, just to prove the bank still knows how. (RBA board meetings have been reduced to the annual Melbourne Cup Day lunch, lest the bank be distracted from its job of printing money.)

In return for an AFL quarter and semi-final, NT Chief Minister Gonna Gunner brokers agreement with WA and Queensland and provides the necessary middle bit for a contiguous Frontier Australia Regional Kingdom.

December

Foxtel pays $300 million for the Give ‘Em Curry with Stunt cooking show, a co-production by the IPA, the Centre for Independent Studies, the Sydney Institute and the Tuesday Night Prayer Group Inc.

Senator Fallujah Molan announces he is taking the fight up to the Chinese by invading Vanuatu, having discovered an old newspaper cutting about a CCP naval base there.

Storming the Chinese-built wharf under covering fire from Sassy Hastie and Senator Kimba Kitching (nominally ALP, Vic) he finds one fishing boat, three kids mucking about in a tinny and a pile of coconut husks.

“This is not the end,” he says. “This is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the beginning of the beginning. You know, we could still win in Vietnam with just a bit more bombing.”

After giving the coconut husks a full magazine, Sassy Hastie confirms the last members of the former Office of the Special Investigator had been successfully hunted down and would not be bothering anyone anymore.

The FARK announces it will not secede from the Commonwealth, but instead will expel NSW, Victoria and the ACT on January 1 and gift Tasmania to its rightful owners, New Zealand. Everyone forgets about South Australia.

Australians spend their last Christmas with open internal borders united by a single fact: every household however grand or humble, every mansion, every unit, every caravan, tent and bush humpy, receives a gold-framed 60 x 40 print of the Prime Ministerial Christmas portrait around the tree at Kirribilli House.

Jen and the girls gaze lovingly up at their hero from their positions at his feet. Stunt Morrison, a Santa hat rakishly tilted to one side, sporting a casual Bunnings team member polo, beaming his trademark grin, chin lifted, confidently facing whatever hair and makeup the future may hold.

*I actually didn’t make this bit up. Matt Canavan is really Matt Canavan.