Australia

Goodbye 45th parliament, you were strange

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There was a fist fight, a bloody door, extramarital affairs and a constitutional crisis. And that’s not all that happened.

As Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the federal election on Thursday, Australians farewelled the 45th parliament and one of the most chaotic, and at times, strangest chapters in political history.

Here are some of the most memorable moments.

When Australia was embroiled in a dual citizenship crisis

It all started when a very avid lover of the Australian constitution from Perth sent then-Greens senator Scott Ludlam a note to say the politician may have been ineligible to be elected to parliament because he was also a Kiwi.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam announces he is leaving federal parliament after finding out he was improperly elected.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam announces he is leaving federal parliament after finding out he was improperly elected.
AAP

A funny old rule that meant Australians holding office weren’t allowed to hold citizenship from another country suddenly came into the spotlight, and rocked the entire establishment.

Mr Ludlam quit, sending a ripple through the parliament that inevitably saw more than a dozen senators and MPs step down or be kicked out by the High Court for being dual citizens.

 

The government briefly lost its slim majority in the Lower House when Liberal John Alexander had to resign after discovering he was also Brit. It also claimed the political scalp of then-deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, who was forced into a by-election but eventually won back his seat.

As every parliamentarian rushed to check whether they were inadvertent citizens of another country - whether by birth, marriage or parental rights - Australia was debating whether the rule was outdated in a modern multicultural society.

But rules are rules - and this one still stands.

When Barnaby Joyce’s affair led to a ‘bonk ban’

Shortly after regaining his seat of New England in December 2017, it emerged Mr Joyce had been having an affair with a staff member who was now pregnant with his child.

Barnaby Joyce sits on the backbench after his resignation.
Barnaby Joyce sits on the backbench after his resignation.
AAP

The affair with Vikki Campion led to the breakdown of Mr Joyce’s more than decade long marriage, cost him his job as deputy prime minister and the Nationals leadership. It also led then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to institute a ‘bonk ban’ - preventing members of parliament from having relationships with staff members.

When it happened to another Nationals MP

When news of Mr Joyce’s affair emerged, Nationals MP Andrew Broad sent a very telling tweet criticising Mr Joyce for the affair and not-so-subtly calling for his resignation.

“Quote from the late Billy Graham 'when wealth is lost, nothing is lost; health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost'... telling words for the Leadership of the National Party”, Mr Broad tweeted.

Andrew Broad was forced to step down after being caught in a sexting scandal.
Andrew Broad was forced to step down after being caught in a sexting scandal.
AAP

A year later, Mr Broad found himself facing similar accusations of an affair after it was alleged the married MP had been on a ‘sugar baby’ website and met up with a woman while on a trip to Hong Kong.

The episode was exposed by the woman he’d apparently courted, who told a gossip magazine the politician referred to himself as James Bond as well as attempting to make the word “G’day” sound sexy.

Mr Broad said the AFP were investigating the matter and announced he’d step down from the Victorian seat of Mallee, later telling his local newspaper the meet-up was a “dumb mistake”.

Malcolm Turnbull getting rolled over climate policy - again

In a case of history repeating itself, Australians watched on bemused as yet another prime minister was removed without their say.

Malcolm Turnbull lost the Liberal leadership in much the same way he did last time in 2009 - over climate policy. The saga left the Liberal Party reeling and fractured with Mr Turnbull accusing conservatives within his party of “trying to bring down the government” through an “insurgency”.

Liberal MP Julia Banks later quit the party, saying she’d been bullied by colleagues over the leadership spill vote. And some experienced Liberals later quit parliament altogether, including Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop.

Australia had its fifth prime minister in five years in leadership spill victor Scott Morrison, who to this day faces taunting questions from Labor about why the leadership change even occurred.

When Scott Morrison brought a lump of coal into Question Time

“Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared,” the then-Treasurer taunted the opposition, brandishing a lacquered piece of coal at the despatch box.

“It won’t hurt you. It’s coal.”

Scott Morrison holds a piece of coal during Question Time.
Scott Morrison holds a piece of coal during Question Time.
AAP

It was an attempt to ridicule Labor’s calls for a transition away from fossil fuels but it also showed how members of the Coalition remained loyal to coal-fired power at a time when some energy retailers were even saying they’d be moving away from fossil fuels.

There was also the time former prime minister Tony Abbott told an audience overseas that, “climate change is probably doing good” and comparing action on climate change to ‘killing goats to appease volcano gods’.

Now, as he faces a challenge for his seat of Warringah from an Independent candidate calling for climate change action, Mr Abbott has also backflipped on his calls for Australia to pull out of the Paris agreement.

All the bizarre things One Nation did

When Pauline Hanson walked into the Senate chamber in a black burqa, two of her colleagues sitting behind her couldn’t contain their delight.

One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson wears a burqa during Senate Question Time.
One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson wears a burqa during Senate Question Time.

Brian Burston clapped and laughed, as did Malcolm Roberts. The far-right politician claimed she was making a point about security in the chamber, but the move was widely condemned as an attention-seeking stunt

Senator Burston would later fall out with the party over unrelated reasons, leading to one of the most bizarre episodes in the halls of parliament: when he accused his former leader of coming on to him, then getting into a fist-fight with her chief of staff in parliament’s marble hall, before smearing blood on Senator Hanson’s office door.

But the strangest moment was left for his mea culpa, when he told the Senate: “Whilst I do not recall the incident of blood on the door, I now have come to the conclusion that it was myself and I sincerely apologise for that action.”

When Michaelia Cash hid behind a whiteboard

The beleaguered jobs minister had been under pressure to resign from the opposition after using a Senate estimates hearing to apparently accuse female members of Labor leader Bill Shorten’s office of inappropriate conduct.

Michaelia Cash uses whiteboard to shield herself from media.
Michaelia Cash uses whiteboard to shield herself from media.
SBS News

As she was walking into another hearing, security guards were seen wheeling out a whiteboard to shield Senator Cash from the waiting media pack on the other side.

When Scott Morrison tried his hand at a Fatman Scoop song

Mr Morrison posted a video on social media of him at Question Time with colleagues behind him raising their hands in unison. It seemed fine until you heard the music dubbed over the vision: US rapper Fatman Scoop’s sexually charged Be Faithful.

The lyrics to the song glorify casual sex and include a slew of expletives. It was later taken down with Mr Morrison apologising for the gaffe.

But no one expected the rapper himself to come out in a video telling Mr Morrison all was ok and that it was just a “fun party song that has no negativity or harm”. And neither did anyone expect the PM to be invited to Mr Scoop’s Australian tour - to which the Mr Morrison replied he was keen on.

When Malcolm Turnbull took on Donald Trump - and kinda won

It was the phone call that had everyone either giggling or in shock. Then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull had been trying to convince the new US President of honouring an Obama era deal to let refugees detained on Manus Island and Nauru resettle in the US, at a time when Mr Trump was concerned about his image and taking in more immigrants.

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In an extraordinary leaked transcript of the phone call, Mr Trump described Mr Turnbull as “worse than I am”, decrying the deal as “ridiculous", "rotten" and "stupid", before reportedly hanging up on Mr Turnbull.

The saga led to criticism of the way the president handled talks with one of the US’s most important allies. But the Trump administration went on to honour the deal.

The Australian federal election will be held on 18 May. Follow SBS News online, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the latest.

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