Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull won the election, but victory was not so sweet as he had hoped.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull won the election, but victory was not so sweet as he had hoped. MICK TSIKAS

Dissolution solution: A year in Australian politics

THE Turnbull government is claiming retrospective vindication for its double dissolution election now it has passed its Australian Building and Construction Commission industrial relations bill.

But it did not always look that way.

The Liberal Party's post-election shindig in Sydney has been widely hailed as one of the most depressing on record, with predictions of Labor being trounced proving to be entirely mistaken.

It took more than a week for counting to complete, with the Coalition receiving just 42% of the vote and a very tricky crossbench to negotiate with.

The fallout prompted criticism of Mr Turnbull for ousting Tony Abbott as prime minister amid claims no legislation would make it through parliament.

Labor Leader Bill Shorten said the Coalition had "lost their mandate".

"Whatever happens next week, Mr Turnbull will never be able to claim that the people of Australia have adopted his ideological agenda," Mr Shorten told a roomful of party faithfuls.

Senate stalemates are now a very real threat, but the government has hailed the ABCC bill's passing as a symbolic victory.

"We feel pretty good about it, I have to tell you. It has been a slog," Mr Turnbull told ABC's 7.30.

"We took it to the election, we had the courage to prorogue the parliament and bring the parliament back, forced the Senate to vote on it, dissolve both houses of parliament, fought an eight-week campaign on it and now we have secured the support of the Senate."

Pauline strikes back

ONE Nation Leader Pauline Hanson's maiden speech to the Senate truly set the scene for what would follow, warning Australia was being "swamped by Muslims" and telling those who did not adapt to the Australian way of life to "go back to where you came from".

"Islam cannot have a significant presence in Australia if we are to live in an open, secular and cohesive society," she said.

"We have seen the destruction it is causing around the world."

 

One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson after the Backpacker Tax Bill vote in the Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra.
One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson after the Backpacker Tax Bill vote in the Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra. MICK TSIKAS

All has not been peachy within the One Nation ranks, despite Senator Hanson's resurgence as a major political player on the back of a groundswell of support from regional Queensland.

Senator Rod Culleton is facing a High Court challenge to his eligibility to have even been elected, over a since-dropped conviction for stealing a $7.50 key from a tow truck driver.

He and Sen Hanson's relationship hung by a thread, with the party leader telling 2GB radio host Ray Hadley she was sick of being told what to do by a "new kid on the block".

"He's not a team player at all. We can't work with him, you can't reason with him and honestly, I think the whole lot's gone to his head," she said.

For his part, Sen Culleton said Hanson should "have a pooey or get off the potty" after she failed to back his call for a banking royal commission.

He has since left One Nation to serve as an independent and consequently Sen Hanson has vowed to screen all One Nation candidates in the coming West Australian election.

But before that could happen, she lost her Gold Coast candidate who quit after one day claiming the party was limiting his right to "free speech".

Mad witches and resignations

THE year had barely begun when Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was forced to publicly apologise for calling a female journalist a "mad f**king witch" in a text message.

There would have been no issue except the controversial MP accidentally sent it to reporter Samantha Maiden herself, rather than to its intended recipient, minister Jamie Briggs.

Mr Briggs was embroiled in his own fair share of controversy, soon forced to resign from the ministry over a late-night incident with a public servant on an official visit to Hong Kong.

A few months earlier Mr Briggs injured himself during a party in Tony Abbott's office the night he was ousted as prime minister.

Mr Briggs was photographed being pushed around in a wheelchair the following day.

Minutes after Mr Briggs announced he was stepping down from the ministry, fellow Liberal MP Mal Brough stood aside as well, pending a police investigation into claims he copied Peter Slipper's diaries.

He did not recontest his seat at the July election.

Mr Briggs lost his seat at the election with a swing of almost 19% to independent MP Nick Xenophon's team.

Conservative revolution

LIBERAL Senator Cory Bernardi emerged as a figurehead for right-wing Australian politics. And showed he was not afraid to criticise his own party.

Sen Bernardi launched the Australian Conservatives in a reaction to the Liberals' perceived snubbing of its conservative base following Malcolm Turnbull's rise to party leader.

 

Conservative Senator Cory Bernardi arrives for a Liberal Party meeting in Canberra in July.
Conservative Senator Cory Bernardi arrives for a Liberal Party meeting in Canberra in July. ANDREW TAYLOR

It was not a splinter party but a group for like-minded right-wingers meant to rival progressive group GetUp! - although there was speculation Sen Bernardi was priming himself for an eventual split from the Liberals.

The group had more than 50,000 members within a month of being established, Sen Bernardi claimed.

He made headlines donning a Donald Trump-style "Make Australia Great Again" hat in a photo on social media, and recently announced he and Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen would help raise funds for an anti-Islamic group fighting a defamation case brought by a halal certifier.

Lambie's bloody oaths

INDEPENDENT Senator Jacqui Lambie made an impassioned but also very weird Australia Day video imploring Aussies to recite the country's "Oath of Allegiance".

She let loose while dressed in a sequined Australian flag singlet and a similarly themed feather hat.

"From this time forward under God, I'll pledge my loyalty to Australia and its peoples, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey," she said.

"Remember, if you don't like our laws, equality for all including women, gay and indigenous people, there are plenty of other countries to choose from."

Problem was, what she reciting was the Citizen's Pledge, read by those receiving their Australian citizenship, not the Oath of Allegiance.

 

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie after One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts makes his maiden speech in the Senate at Parliament House in Canberra.
Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie after One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts makes his maiden speech in the Senate at Parliament House in Canberra. MICK TSIKAS

The outspoken senator sure had a way with words, though.

In September, she made a speech comparing Senator Bernardi to an "angry prostitute".

"Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi lecturing this parliament and displaying mock outrage regarding Labor Senator Sam Dastyari and Chinese political donations is like an angry prostitute lecturing us about the benefits of celibacy," she said.

She then apologised to prostitutes who she said were more compassionate, humane and gave "more bang for buck" than Senator Bernardi.

Sam's Chinese connection

SENATOR Sam Dastyari has been released from Labor's sin bin since being forced to quit the front bench in September after it was revealed he sent his travel bill to a Chinese donor.

The Turnbull government waged war on the young senator, suggesting he had been influenced by foreign interests, without actually claiming he had broken any rules or laws.

Chinese-Australian media company Media Today Group had quoted Sen Dastyari as saying the South China Sea was "China's own affair" and Australia should remain neutral on the issue.

 

Labor Senator Sam Dastyari facing questions about a $1670 bill paid by a company with links to the Chinese Government.
Labor Senator Sam Dastyari facing questions about a $1670 bill paid by a company with links to the Chinese Government. DEAN LEWINS

The position was in conflict with Labor's official policy, which Sen Dastyari later said he supported.

He is now being touted as the next deputy opposition whip in the Senate after his three-month exile from the front bench.

Clive Palmer's fall from grace

COLOURFUL multi-millionaire MP Clive Palmer announced he would abandon his seat at the July election amid claims he had siphoned millions of dollars from Queensland Nickel before the company's collapse in May.

At first he hinted at a possible run for the Senate.

"I'm going to talk to my wife first and I'll see what she says," he told Sky News.

But that plan was eventually thrown to the dogs as well.

 

Former federal MP Clive Palmer gives the thumbs up as he leaves Brisbane Supreme Court.
Former federal MP Clive Palmer gives the thumbs up as he leaves Brisbane Supreme Court. DAN PELED

It was no great surprise: the Palmer United Party had fallen to tatters and creditors and investigators were circling.

There has been an upside for the formerly portly MP.

Since leaving parliament he has lost almost 50kg, telling Twitter he had shed almost a third of his body weight to reach 104kg.

Rudd's embarrassment

KEVIN Rudd had his heart set on becoming secretary-general for the United Nations, or at least being nominated.

But it was not to be, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shutting down his dreams and refusing to back his candidacy.

He claimed Mr Rudd lacked the interpersonal skills and temperament for the role, which prompted the former prime minister to accuse Mr Turnbull of stabbing him in the back.

"What I don't respect is, having pursued this campaign for United Nations secretary-general for such a long period of time in absolute good faith, to then see that good faith dishonoured and trust broken," Mr Rudd said.

"It was always assumed in these conversations that the government would support me."

 

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd speaking at The National Apology anniversary breakfast at New South Wales Parliament House in Sydney.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd speaking at The National Apology anniversary breakfast at New South Wales Parliament House in Sydney. DEAN LEWINS

Speculation another country would back his UN bid - possibly Botswana - emerged in the wake, but Mr Rudd has shot down such claims.

ARM NEWSDESK



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