57 Australian Politics Memes That Defined The 2010s
Come with us on a journey from "friends don't let friends vote for Tony Abbott" to #WhereTheBloodyHellAreYou.
A decade is allegedly 10 years long. And yet, it feels as if we've fit many, many more years than that — perhaps centuries — into the 2010s.
The decade in Australian politics was particularly eventful. Since we've collectively lost the ability to tell time in a conventional way, this list takes you through the highs and lows of #auspol using... memes.
1. Friends don't let friends vote for Tony Abbott
Tony Abbott was objectively an unpopular opposition leader and then prime minister. His (un)popularity was the genesis for an early meme "friends don't let friends vote for Tony Abbott".
2. I can't believe he stood in front of it and signed it
Tony Abbott stood in front of a billboard in 2012. Two years later, an altered version of the picture began to circulate. Some made more effort to be believable than others.
3. The "carbon tax"
In 2011, prime minister Julia Gillard introduced a carbon pricing scheme. Her opponents successfully reframed it as a "carbon tax" (despite not actually believing it was a tax, as they later admitted).
Note the use of Impact font, a staple of memes of the day.
4. Julia Gillard falls over
We enjoy when we see that our leaders are fallible. A slip by prime minister Gillard during a 2012 trip to India was prime meme fodder. Superimposing wrestler Randy Orton over Gillard's stumble was so mind-blowing at the time that it was written up by Australian media.
5. Gillard/Rudd leadership tensions
Gillard ascended to the top job by successfully challenging then prime minister Kevin Rudd an intra-party contest in 2010. Tensions between the pair simmered for years until ... Kevin Rudd became PM again. Truly a time to be alive.
(Film parodies were really in vogue at the time.)
6. Tony Abbott rings David Cameron
Fast forward to 2014. Tony Abbott is now prime minister of Australia. Not long after Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 goes missing, Abbott does what any other self-respecting world leader would do: posts of a picture of himself on the blower getting an update about the search.
Unwittingly, Abbott stumbled into an already existing meme format based on the David Cameron Phone Call, his equivalent from the motherland.
7. "Ha ha ha you're such a cunt."
Government minister Christopher Pyne allegedly drops the c-bomb in parliament when speaking about the new opposition leader Bill Shorten.
Pyne denied saying this, but that didn't stop people having fun with it.
8. Tony Abbott's odd stance
Abbott was showing Japan's leader Shinzo Abe around when this happened.
I mean, c'mon. What did you expect would happen?
9. #auspol mashups
2014 was the beginning of a golden age of videos mashing up Australian politics with pop culture. We had Arrested Development...
And heaps more, many done by the talented Huw Parkinson.
10. Captain Cooked
On Sep. 18, 2014 the Daily Telegraph put a graphic of immigration minister Scott Morrison as Captain Cook on its front page to celebrate Australia's hard-line immigration policies.
Which laid the foundation for this iconic meme.
11. Bill Shorten with a mullet
Perhaps the most memorable press conference of Bill Shorten's half a decade stint as opposition leader was the time he appeared to have a mullet.
Fact check: he didn't actually have a mullet. It was just the camera angle. The magic of showbiz, hey?
12. Tony Abbott: minister for women
When prime minister Tony Abbott announced his cabinet, there was surprise that he — crucially, a man — would be the minister for women. Later on, he named "repealing the carbon tax" as his greatest achievement in the role.
13. Abbott's speed dealer sunnies
All the leadership tension didn't stop Abbott from living his best life. Out in a timber yard in Victoria, the man who was fighting for his political life was convinced to put on a pair of sunglasses called "speed dealers".
Will you just look at the state of this.
14. Greens taking credit for things
They say success has many fathers. That was certainly the vibe when Greens MP Adam Bandt celebrated the decision by Labor's Victorian premier Daniel Andrews to end the East West Link toll road planned by the previous government. Labor supporters were mad about Bandt's attempt to claim the victory – and the meme was born.
Government speaker Bronwyn Bishop chartered a $5,227 helicopter flight to fly 75km from Melbourne to Geelong. This expensive dash to a party fundraiser spawned a series of memes about her extravagant lifestyle.
16. [Checks notes]
While declaring his beliefs at a press conference, Bill Shorten paused to glance at his notes. The moment (which happened AGAIN at the 2015 party conference) became a popular way to suggest Shorten doesn't believe anything he says.
17. Newspoll wow!
News Corp writer Peter van Onselen would, like clockwork, tweet the same two words (give or take) just before a regular poll of election voting preferences was released to the public. This poll was frequently evoked to justify dumping leaders.
It didn't actually matter what was in the poll. Maybe nothing matters, IDK.
18. George Brandis' jumper
The bar is pretty low for Australia's political fashion achievements. Arguably, attorney-general George Brandis' sweater was one of the rare bright spots.
Honestly, it's not even that out there.
Which makes the huge reaction to the jumper even funnier.
In September 2015 Malcom Turnbull successfully challenged Tony Abbott for the leadership of the Liberal Party. Australians had seen so many different PMs in such a short space of time that we knew what to do. And that was to make more memes.
The Bachelor had just started, and would soon become a mainstay for #auspol/pop culture crossovers.
And some chose to mourn Abbott's toppling with a throwback to his raw onion moment. RIP to a real one.
21. Peter Dutton is a potato
From one vegetable to another: it was around the time that Queensland's Peter Dutton became immigration minister that people started to realise he had a striking resemblance to a tuber. It became one of the most enduring political memes of the decade.
22. What's your favourite lettuce?
I swear this is just a vegetable coincidence but chronologically, the next significant meme of the decade was about Bill Shorten's passion for lettuce.
While attempting small talk on the campaign trail, Shorten infamously asked a supermarket shopper to identify their favourite lettuce. What a question! He then declined to identify his own favourite lettuce.
Later, he finally chose one, through this really poor effort at a meme. (Impact font in 2016, you hate to see it.) A media advisor probably made this.
23. Mark Latham wore a dirty polo and oversized shorts to the PM's XI on Jan. 20, 2016
A twitter user @Mesut_Asuil was struck when he saw former opposition leader Mark Latham at the cricket one day.
It soon became an obsession.
24. Clive Palmer counts his money
Clive Palmer was elected to federal parliament in 2016. The billionaire ran on a populist platform that was critical about immigration. And much like a certain other billionaire, he had no qualms about showing off his riches.
This frankly absurd display of (actually rather minor) wealth was an easy target.
25. Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's apology to Australia
The two celebrities filmed a frankly bizarre apology to Australia after being caught smuggling their pet dogs into the country.
The hostage-style video was too good an opportunity to pass up.
26. The double dissolution election
On May 8, 2016 prime minister Malcolm Turnbull visited the governor-general Sir Peter Cosgrove and asked him to dissolve both houses of parliament and call an election.
It was an election that would be defined by the dankness of its memes, a trend best captured in the output of the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union social media pages.
27. "Jobs and growth"
The Coalition's three-word catchcry quickly became a meme.
28. The "fake tradie"
Who could forget the response to this Coalition advertisement?
29. Voting for Harambe
Do you remember Harambe, the gorilla who died? Well, he may have been gone but he continued to live on in our hearts and in the ballot box.
Voting for a dead ape instead of a plethora of political candidates? Why not, we miss him so much.
30. THAT Dutton Photo
Peter Dutton’s office asked a reporter to remove an “unflattering” photograph of the Minister emerging from the shadows at a press conference. Turns out the internet doesn’t take kindly to being told what to do.
31. George Christensen's tattoo
Liberal National MP George Christensen got a tattoo.
That's it. That's the meme.
32. A politician argued with a Simpsons meme page
For some reason, Liberal MP Andrew Laming fought with one of Australia's most iconic and long-running meme pages The Simpsons against the Liberals. The fight itself became a meme.
33. The Moat
Okay I get that this decade has been long but did you remember that once we considered making a moat around parliament?
34. Prime minister Trumble
White House press secretary Sean Spicer struggling with Turnbull's name during a press briefing, calling him "Trumble". And... it was very funny.
35. Malcolm Turnbull tells everyone he fucks
The prime minister was speaking to 97.3FM when he was asked whether he ever “Netflix and chills” with his wife, Lucy. He replied in the affirmative.
36. Pauline Hanson wears a burqa into parliament
In August 2017 the returned One Nation senator Pauline Hanson entered the Senate wearing a burqa, which she had railed against in the past. The stunt was condemned by members of parliament. But of course, people on social media wanted a turn dunking too.
37. Cory Bernadi ending up in a same-sex marriage photoshoot
Conservative politician Cory Bernadi is no fan of same-sex marriage. That's why it was a perfect moment when he accidentally gatecrashed a photoshoot for the “yes” side in the same-sex marriage postal survey.
38. The dual citizenship saga
Remember that weird time when what felt like half the parliament were found to be dual citizens and resigned/were removed from office?
39. Bill Shorten raps and dabs
Politicians aren’t cool. That’s OK, it’s not their job to be cool! It’s their job to either run the country or hold those in charge to account. But for some unfathomable reason, politicians continue to try cast themselves as cool despite presumably knowing that the very pursuit of coolness is disqualifying. Anyway, here’s Bill Shorten.
40. “Let there be a thousand blossoms bloom”
If you think politicians are good at segueing from one topic to another, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Rural politician Bob Katter's seamless transition from talking about marriage equality to killer crocs is nothing short of mesmerising.
Oh, the range. It’s a surprisingly versatile excuse, too.
And then the meme was given a second lease on life when the national broadcaster fact-checked the claim.
41. eat shit lyle
After same-sex marriage passed parliament a LOT of people tweeted this at the then managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby.
42. The "weatherboard nine"
Barnaby Joyce resigned from his position as deputy prime minister and leader of the National Party in February 2018, following a series of scandals.
It was, however, a certain turn of phrase that set Twitter alight. Joyce repeatedly spoke of the “weatherboard and iron”, a phrase that supposedly referred to a poorer, rural group of Australians, but some heard it as “the weatherboard nine”.
43. Michaelia Cash’s whiteboard
Government minister Michaelia Cash was quite literally hidden behind a whiteboard to avoid the media.
44. “Next question... see ya!”
South Australian Coalition Senator Lucy Gichuhi was at a press conference when she got a question she didn’t want to answer. Rather than talk about a scandal consuming her party colleague, she gave this response which went super viral.
And turns out, you can use it for any question you don’t want to duck.
You get the picture.
45. ScoMo's unlikely victory
Even though Peter Dutton was behind the wild, days-long 2018 leadership spill, it was Scott Morrison who emerged victorious.
And honestly, people were exhausted.
46. What’s the go with the au pairs?
This meme was a response to a scandal involving Peter Dutton and his decision to provide visas to a couple of au pairs.
It picked up steam on Twitter until eventually, Labor shadow immigration minister Shayne Neumann opened a press conference by asking what the go was, putting an end to to this meme being funny.
47. “I Stopped These”
One of the insights from the New York Times’ interview with Scott Morrison was that his office contained a boat-shaped trophy that read “I Stopped These”.
People created their own versions of what other trophies Morrison might have. It got dark.
48. I whisper "G'day mate"
Andrew Broad is a former Nationals politician who left parliament after New Idea exposed that he had chatted to and dined with with a woman he met on on a sugar baby website.
Unfortunately for him — and us — some of the messages between the pair were leaked, giving us a rare insight into a married, Australian male’s attempts to chat someone up. And, well, wow.
49. Tony Abbott discovering a street library
One of the best videos to come out of the 2019 election was undoubtedly Tony Abbott encountering a street library in his electorate.
His astonishment was the perfect meme format.
51. “The economy is strong with this one”
People love the Star Wars franchise. So why not try and align your political brand with one of the most popular series of films on the planet?
52. Engadine Maccas
This is the big one. Perhaps the defining #auspol meme of 2019: the rumour that the prime minister had lost control of his bowels at a fast food restaurant two decades ago. It was launched with a single tweet.
53. Egg Boy
In March, 17-year-old Will Connolly smashed an egg on the head of then-senator Fraser Anning after the politician blamed the Christchurch shooting on Muslim immigration.
It became a huge global meme after the footage went viral.
54. Captain GetUp
In one of the weirdest parts of recent Australian political history, a rightwing advocacy group funded the creation of a supposedly satirical super hero character called Captain GetUp.
The character is apparently part of the progressive activist group GetUp, and his best friend is Freddie Foreign Money. And also Bill Shorten’s son.
55. Well done Angus
Energy Minister Angus Taylor had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad 2019, becoming engulfed in several controversies ranging from watergate to the Clover Moore document dispute to the Naomi Wolf War on Christmas saga. So naturally, when his own Facebook account complimented him on a job well done, it blew up.
Better luck next year, Angus!
56. Tony Abbott loses his seat
Whatever your thoughts on Tony Abbott, it’s impossible to deny his contribution to Australian political memes. But unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.
When it was announced that Tony Abbott had lost his seat to challenger Zali Steggall, people took their last opportunity to say goodbye to the former PM.
While Australia was on fire, the Prime Minister took an unannounced vacation to Hawaii. People jumped on the infamous slogan from an advertising campaign that Morrison oversaw during his time as head of Tourism Australia.
But the best entrance to the meme had to be from Lara Worthington (nee Bingle) who you might remember as the STAR OF THE AD. Beautiful.