How good was the Australian election campaign? The funniest moments from a mad month

Naaman Zhou


‘Fantastic. Great move. Well done Angus.’

Kind words haunt Angus Taylor. Since 1 May, they are the only thing anyone says to him online. The same six words follow him like a lost puppy. And for once it isn’t “Eastern Australia Agriculture/Eastern Australia Irrigation”.

All because the energy minister’s official Facebook page was caught saying them to itself. Under his own post about new car parks, Taylor’s page accidentally commented: “Fantastic. Great move. Well done Angus.”

Taylor now can’t so much as breathe on social media without being swamped by the phrase. Under every post he makes, the comments run into the hundreds.

It’s got so bad his social media minders have started pre-emptively referring to it, like a tired boxer wincing before the hit.

“Predicting this shared post will receive many positive comments,” the page wrote on 10 March.

“Fantastic. Great prediction. Well done Angus,” they said.

The first leaders’ debate

Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison faced each for the first time, formally, in Western Australia.

Related: Australian election 2019 quiz, part two: how much can you remember?

Channel Seven’s TV debate was an incredible spectacle, widely panned for its baffling set-up. Airing after Bargain Hunt and before The Vicar of Dibley, it lost the ratings battle that night to Lego Masters.

Morrison and Shorten didn’t seem to know how it worked. Perched on awkward stools, with a camera in each face, they had to be told they were allowed to move around and look at each other.

It looked like a bad gameshow. It felt like performance art designed to subvert your conceptions of a debate. Every few minutes, host Basil Zempilas would interrupt the debate, remind us that we were watching the debate, and then reintroduce two other hosts (Mark Riley and Lanai Scarr) to ask questions. After the “final summation”, the moderators then … asked another question.

Andrew Probyn’s face

The former PMs were the stars of Labor’s campaign launch. Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard joked with each other like best mates, and Paul Keating ambushed the ABC’s Andrew Probyn and Jane Norman seemingly for the fun of it.

The Keating interview dominated the news for a few days – for his ability to explain Labor’s policies better than Shorten, and the nostalgia of his put-downs: calling Morrison a “fossil in a baseball cap” and declaring Australia’s spy chiefs had “all gone berko”.

But the most prime ministerial moment was his entrance. A full 20 minutes early, not caring, he came in from right of screen like a slow missile; a disembodied hand wielding live TV as a comedic weapon.

Probyn’s expression was priceless. As was the complete, mischievous silence with which Keating sat down – offering no help as his hosts desperately vamped. Watch for the rate at which Probyn flips the pages of his notebook – my count is five times within 15 seconds.

An honourable mention must also go to the many Rudd and Gillard reunion memes, as they wandered the conference hall, all smiles, like nothing had ever happened.

The unbreakable egg

In Albury, a protester slapped an egg on the prime minister’s head, but it skidded off like a ski slope. The ABC’s Dan Conifer found the egg intact. Attention quickly turned to its unique ballistic properties.

How did it not break? Sleuths pored over the footage like it was the Zapruder film. The ABC’s caption on the primary evidence was perhaps intentionally hilarious.

UAP candidate videos

Clive Palmer’s relaunched United Australia party has lined the pockets of Australia’s advertisers with more than $60m. The party scrabbled together enough candidates to run in every lower house seat – despite 40% of them not living where they’re running. Burned by Jacqui Lambie and Glenn Lazarus, he also made them promise to reimburse him $400,000 if they left the party after winning a seat.

The other thing he made them do? All read the exact same policy statement, awkwardly, to camera.

‘I’m Korean’

Scott Morrison’s foray into foreign languages lasted 48 hours. On the first Saturday of the campaign, he said hello (in Mandarin) to a voter in Sydney’s Strathfield, thinking she was Chinese. She was not.

Despite the Sky News reporter saying the incident happened “in a restaurant”, the encounter clearly happened on the street.

By Monday, non-English greetings were declared persona non grata. “I’m no Asian languages expert,” Morrison said. “So I’m going to say G’day to everyone.”

Someone calling Bill Shorten a prick

On a campaign stop in Hobart, Bill Shorten danced with danger. Local woman Sandi Fitzgerald approached him at the farmer’s market, disdain in her eyes. In front of the cameras, she told him: “That bloody Bill Shorten is a prick.”

Then she realised she had confused him with someone else. “No, not you,” she said. “Scott Morrison!” She laughed, shook his hand and took off, saying: “Hope you get in darl!”

A very pleased Shorten returned to his scheduled media activities: eating oysters, drinking Tasmanian gin and eating a curry. Hmm, maybe he wasn’t the winner here.

The promise of Australia

It is Scott Morrison’s vision for this country as our Prime Minister to keep the Promise of Australia to all Australians. Got it?

This unrivalled piece of political messaging was sent out the day of the official Liberal launch. It was not received well.

Captain GetUp

For anybody who believes in the Canberra bubble, I present to you Captain GetUp, the campaign stunt so insular he’s recursive.

It’s complicated. As Paul Keating said to Andrew Probyn – follow the bouncing ball.

Related: What would Hawkie do? Why Australia’s economy can't afford more denial and drift | Katharine Murphy

Captain GetUp is a satirical parody of GetUp, created by the rightwing group Advance Australia. He pretends to be a campaigner for GetUp, and tells people to vote for candidates that GetUp supports. But cunningly, he does so by saying slightly negative things.

In Captain GetUp’s first week, a columnist for the Australian labelled him “one of the dumbest ideas I’ve seen in politics”. Captain GetUp also happily compared himself to a giant testicle.

When people said he was reminding them to donate to GetUp, he pushed them to donate more. He was also revealed to be a Colombian YouTuber.

Then Captain GetUp was reprimanded for a “sexualised” video where he rubbed up against a billboard of independent Warringah candidate Zali Steggall.

But, as campaigner Sally Rugg pointed out, if the point of Captain GetUp was to confuse voters into believing him to be from GetUp, then the negative press, the sexism of the stunt, and everything that makes Captain GetUp so stupid, is the point.

We’re well and truly through the looking glass here.