News Politics Mind your Ps and Qs: The alphabet of Australian politics, N to Z
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Mind your Ps and Qs: The alphabet of Australian politics, N to Z

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This year was a lot. Especially in the field of politics. That’s why we decided to distill it down for you in an easy-to-remember, alphabetised format.

We’ve brought you A to M and as sure as day follows night, and pivot follows unprecedented in the most-used words of the year list, here is N to Z.

N is for North Face

The most famous jacket in the nation. An unofficial online system used by Dan-watchers surmised that if he was wearing the North Face, that day wasn’t going to hold a scary announcement (wearing a suit on the weekends, however, was a different story).

The jacket’s presence caused some to breathe a sigh of relief; its absence, causing anxiety.

O is for Overseas

A place most of us haven’t gone all year, and won’t be going for many months more, and not without a vaccine.

P is for Protest

From record-breaking climate change protests to start the year; to demonstrations taking over the United States in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers, and Black Lives Matter which took over Australian streets at the height of COVID lockdowns; to sporting stars worldwide taking a knee; anti-lockdown marches spewing conspiracy theories about 5G and microchips and vaccines; and US election protests, both for and against Donald Trump.

blm protest melbourne virus
Huge crowds rallied nationwide for Black Lives Matter. Photo: AAP 

Despite strict rules on large gatherings, 2020 saw the most heated protest activity in years, as the pandemic heightened tensions on any number of levels from inequality and racism to the environment.

Some politicians and police called for protests to end; some ended up joining in themselves.

This year was a year of tension, of fracturing, of the virus highlighting and widening fault lines, which were already cracking long before this. People were activated, protest movements born, new leaders emerged, and calls for change grew ever louder.

Q is for Quarantine

The hotel quarantine system, Australia’s biggest bulwark against the virus re-entering wider society, is now one of our biggest risk factors.

Multiple failures across the nation, from the well-documented blunders in Victoria to smaller issues in South Australia and New South Wales, which spawned outbreaks in those states, have highlighted the at-times piecemeal nature of the system, with private and public guards, cleaners and staff crossing over.

It’s highlighted the issues around insecure work and poor pay, with menial workers forced to take multiple jobs to make ends meet, and continually seeding the virus from their hotel work into their other occupations.

More questions are now being raised over how NSW grants exemptions and whether there are enough safeguards on the system that takes in the bulk of Australia’s returning international travellers.

The quarantine system has been a remarkable success, bringing back thousands of Aussies from overseas with relatively few issues, but chinks in the armour need to be urgently covered over to prevent further breaches and outbreaks.

R is for Ruby Princess

The first big bungle. An entire cruise ship allowed to spew out COVID-infected passengers into the heart of Sydney without quarantine, blame shifting between NSW and federal authorities, a desperate scramble to find and isolate those onboard, conspiracy theories about how it happened … this had it all. Some 900 people linked to the ship contracted the virus, and nearly 30 died.

The infamous ship, docked in Sydney. Photo: AAP

An inquiry found “inexcusable” errors at all levels, failures to test and quarantine the sick, and led to Premier Gladys Berejiklian apologising “unreservedly”.

Thankfully, the incident hasn’t been repeated, with cruise ships still banned from sailing.

S is for Sovereign Citizens

It truly was the year of conspiracy theorists and sovereign citizens, as the pandemic spawned a thousand hoaxes and dangerous explanations.

We saw people who defied lockdown and health orders, challenged police, found creative ways to avoid road checkpoints, screamed in opposition to face masks, or spread preposterous conspiracy theories about microchips and false claims the pandemic was a ‘hoax’.

Victoria Police had to specifically call out “sovereign citizens”, as adherents to mumbo-jumbo legalese about the constitution and the Magna Carta began impeding officials – and in some cases, even assaulting them.

Egged on by some famous figures in entertainment and media circles, the anti-vaxxer and anti-lockdown crowd became emboldened and swelled in size, thanks in no small part to the increasingly unhinged thoughts of celebrity chef Pete Evans.

A huge vaccine information campaign will be rolled out publicly in coming weeks, in no small part to combat the dangerous claims by conspiracy theorists about vaccinations.

T is for TV

Who ever thought hours-long press conferences would become the hottest TV trend of the year?

With rules changing hour by hour at some points, perching in front of the telly to listen to the PM, Dan, Gladys or the other premiers was suddenly must-see viewing. Australians got the unfiltered and often confusing information they don’t often often see, raw and straight from the politicians and health experts, instead of waiting for it to be interpreted and spat back out in news reports.

It also gave viewers a look behind the scenes, as cameras turned to the journalists asking questions. Not everyone liked what they saw, with press conferences often turning combative and sometimes ugly, as answers were sought and politicians obfuscated and some journalists carried on to make themselves the story.

U is for United States

In the middle of all this, we had the US election – just an absolutely bonkers few weeks to mark the end of the Trump presidency.

We saw calls for Scott Morrison to step in and tell The Donald it was time to go, former US ambassador Joe Hockey embroiled in an international scandal after making claims about vote tampering, and Joe Biden’s election putting the pressure back on the federal government to commit to stronger climate targets.

Donald Trump’s presidency is over. Photo: AP

More broadly, the catastrophic managing of the American COVID response made many of us feel very lucky to be living where we live – as even with our own well-documented failures and tragic deaths, our health and economic outcomes could have been far worse.

V is for Vaccine

What we’re all looking forward to in 2021.

First doses in March, every Aussie jabbed by October; that’s the current timetable from the federal government. But questions still remain over which of our three vaccine deals will get final approval from authorities, what the gradual rollout schedule looks like, and how health experts decide which person gets what type of vaccine.

Everyone remains optimistic about it, and many details are still up in the air, but hopefully January brings further clarity.

W is for War Crimes

A four-year investigation found credible information supporting allegations of 39 war crime murders of Afghan civilians or unarmed prisoners by Australian special forces troops.

It has been a powderkeg issue all year, and Linda Reynolds’ handling of the release saw some call for her to lose her her job as Defence Minister. However, the softly spoken Senator Reynolds had potentially one of the most sensitive jobs all year in the government, and her strong comments calling the incidents “cold-blooded murder” indicate the former soldier is ready to see this investigation through.

The IGADF report made claims of possible war crimes in Afghanistan. Photo: AAP

More details will come in coming months, as the special investigator’s office is set up and begins further probing the allegations and evidence.

It will be years before any charges could even be laid, but how Senator Reynolds and Mr Morrison handle the next step of this process will show how serious they are about enacting the change in the SAS they have promised.

X is for eXpensive

Hundreds of billions for the various Job[Thing] programs, billions for vaccine deals, $300 billion in budget deficit and $1 trillion in national debt: 2020 was a year for eye-watering numbers and price tags, and it will be things we’re paying off for years.

Y is for ‘You’re on mute’

As the world switched to remote working basically overnight, video chats went from a fun novelty to a standard part of life. Trying to conduct work meetings with dozens of people via video call was a nightmare, especially when it took people time to figure out how to turn their mute on and off.

Even in Canberra, when the ‘Zoom Parliament’ was stood up to allow interstate politicians to call in to the chambers, we had political leaders messing up their volume, microphones, cameras and more. Which leads us into …

Z is for Zoom

A year ago, who had even heard of this? But the video call app has been an indispensable service through COVID lockdowns, for work and for play. Spend all day on Zoom locked in meetings, then your nights drinking or playing games with friends.

Zoom book clubs, pub trivia competitions, board game nights and old-fashioned chit-chats were a lifesaver for many, keeping us together as we stayed apart.

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