Once described by the BBC as “like a soap opera directed by Quentin Tarantino”, it’s fair to say Australian politics has a reputation for being loopier than a Canberra roundabout.
From our tendency to replace our prime ministers every time someone sneezes to the almost weekly flameouts of MPs over citizenship and spending rorts, the decision to ship all our pollies to a remote paddock in 1927 may have been one of the most inspired decisions this country ever made.
With the federal election finally in sight, this week the team behind Batshit Moments in Australian Politics are pleased to bring you our list of the 15 most unhinged things to ever happen in AusPol – though we will probably miss another five in the time it takes to write this.
15. Tony Abbott eats an onion
Forget the Onion: Australian politicians are producing their own onion headlines in the literal sense. Way back in 2015, Tony Abbott was feeling peckish after a busy day of knighting princes and apparently the only thing that would sate this hunger was a raw onion – skin and all. One horrified onlooking farmer later explained to the PM that his offer to try an onion “wasn’t meant as a dare”.
14. Michaelia Cash loves Indian food a bit too much
The attorney general, Michaelia Cash, clearly had enjoyed a bit too much red cordial back in mid 2020 when she gave a worringly enthusiastic response to a journalist mentioning the word “curry”, exclaiming: “A curry for the country! I love it!” with enough energy to power a small city. Cash’s outburst is only made more strange by the fact that if you listen closely, the journalist never actually said “curry for the country” in the first place.
13. Bill Shorten’s surprise mullet
ABC viewers back in 2014 were shocked to see Bill Shorten had undergone something of a makeover after the awkward placement of a staffer during a live cross made it look as though the Labor leader was about to challenge someone to punch-ons in a Macca’s carpark. Unfortunately for the Australian public, the hairdo was not permanent though, even stranger still, Abbott’s brief foray into wearing speed-dealer sunnies that same year was very real.
12. The Whyalla wipeout
Craig Emerson’s bizarre cover of the Skyhooks song Horror Movie was allegedly an attempt at rebutting Abbott’s claim that Whyalla would be “wiped off the map” by a carbon tax, so it was probably very amusing for the three people who knew Abbott had said that. The moment from 2012 is made all the more strange when you remember that Labor had the No 1-charting singer Peter Garrett in its ministry at the time, and chose to send out the trade minister instead.
11. Barnaby Joyce’s Christmas message
If Christmas doesn’t make you think of cow paddocks, climate change and trying to photograph God in the sky, well then you probably haven’t watched this gem, where a clearly tired and emotional BJ has put himself out to pasture.
10. Angus Taylor does a great job
Energy minister Angus Taylor helps keep @Batshit_AusPol (that’s us) in business. Just remember the time Taylor had to apologise after his office was caught using a doctored document to smear Clover Moore? (Taylor denies his office altered it.)
But one TayTay moment stands out above the rest – and that’s the time the Right Hon Angus forgot to switch to accounts before praising his own Facebook post. Commenting “Fantastic. Great move. Well done Angus” on his own post about the now infamous car park grants, his flub saw “Angus” become the dictionary definition of online incompetence.
9. The time we lost a PM at sea, then named a pool after him
Unveiled just over a year after prime minister Harold Holt disappeared during a dip in the sea, the Harold Holt Memorial Swim Centre was officially opened by Holt’s successor, John Gorton, who gave an improvised speech ranting about bikinis, how good local councils were at removing dead dogs, then talked up Holt’s swimming credentials.
Amazingly, this was not the most tone-deaf memorial set up for Holt, with a honorary plaque also placed 15 metres below the water at Cheviot beach and a US navy boat named in his honour, which was later sunk as part of a training exercise.
8. Jaymes Diaz’s six-point plan
If you’re going to go to the effort of claiming you have a six-point plan (take heed, Albo) when running for parliament, normally you’d aim to have six points in that plan. But a lack of any real ideas beyond “stopping the boats” was to be no impediment for the Liberal candidate Jaymes Diaz who, in the lead-up to the 2013 election, gave what was perhaps the most disastrous campaign interview in Australian history, ending with him getting carted away by his handlers just to avoid him butchering any more answers.
7. The Back in Black mugs
In 2019 the Liberal party launched an advertising blitz celebrating the budget books finally being “Back in Black”. The only hitch being that the surplus was actually due in 2020, a year when a certain global pandemic began, leading to the largest budget deficit in 70 years. Needless to say, the mugs were quietly pulled from saleand never spoken of again.
6. Bill Shorten’s lettuce chat
It was the innocuous piece of small talk that may have relegated Labor to another three years in the wilderness – Bill Shorten’s stunning inability to act like a human during a shopping trip, asking grocer shoppers questions like, “What’s your favourite type of lettuce?” and, “What kind of yoghurt do you like?” His oratory skills are not exactly going to go down in the “anals of history”.
5. Pauline Hanson forgets her own birthday
We could almost make a whole list just of Hanson’s batshit moments alone. From the time she claimed climate change could be blamed on volcanoes, to the time she warned the country was being overrun by squat toilets, the One Nation leader is the dictionary definition of a red hot mess.
4. Norman Gunston at the dismissal
After being rushed down to Canberra by producers on a tip that Gough Whitlam had just been sacked, “little Aussie bleeder” Norman Gunston – a satirical character played by the comedian Garry McDonald – found himself holding court on Parliament House’s steps, only metres away from Whitlam himself. He was then shooed away by the future PM Bob Hawke, who declared the situation “too serious” for Gunston’s hijinks.
3. Bob Katter’s marriage equality speech
The Queensland MP Bob Katter’s attempt to escape from his status as the poster boy for the vote no campaign majorly backfired when his hamfisted attempt to pivot a question about marriage equality into a discussion about crocodile maulings became a viral sensation around the world. Words really can’t do this gem justice.
2. Barnaby and the bonk ban
Few scandals have managed to spiral as much as Joyce’s affair with a former staff member. Soon after it was revealed that Vikki Campion was pregnant with the married deputy PM’s child, he was accused of sexual harassment by a different woman, which he denied. All of this lead to him resigning as Nationals leader and divorcing his wife, just months after he had called for the Australian public to vote against same-sex marriage, to “protect the sanctity of marriage”.
It led Malcolm Turnbull to implement a ministerial “bonk ban”. Joyce did a trainwreck interview in which he described the baby’s paternity as “a bit of a grey area”. An eight-month investigation into the sexual harassment allegation against him was inconclusive. And, in 2021, he triggered a leadership spill during a Covid spike to get his old job back, gifting us this amazing image in the process.
1. Scott Morrison’s Hawaiian getaway
Few, if any, political moments have gripped the nation with such united hatred for a man who, let’s be honest, is barely liked even on a good day. Scott Morrison’s decision to jet away to Hawaii during devastating bushfires on Australia’s east coast will no doubt go down in political textbooks as a classic example of “things you should probably not do in a crisis”.
Failing to realise that flying home would only make everything worse once the story was out, the prime minister conducted an ill-fated hand-shaking tour of the nation. In the process he coined such phrases as, “Look, I don’t hold a hose, mate,” “That’s actually a matter for the states,” and, “I wonder how I can blame Jenny for this one.”
You can follow the minds behind the Batshit moments in Australian politics Twitter account @batshit_auspol