This crazy political year started with an angry phone call - but love ultimately won the day

Senator Pauline Hanson wearing a burqa, during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 17 August 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Senator Pauline Hanson wearing a burqa, during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 17 August 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

It was a year that began with a tortured phone call - its transcript famously leaked months later - between Australia's Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the newly inaugurated President of the US, Donald Trump.

Trump, furious at being asked to honour a deal brokered with the Obama administration for the US to take around 1250 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru, complained that "this shows me to be a dope".

Whether it did or not, Trump spent the year revealing the most grotesque behaviour, spouting tweets and public statements that promised everything from "fire and fury" on North Korea to the declaration that there were some "very good people" among American neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Back in Australia, Turnbull - who had replaced Tony Abbott on the basis that Abbott had suffered 30 negative polls in a row - finished his own rough year with 25 successive Newspolls showing his Coalition in a losing position to Bill Shorten's Labor.

Abbott, occupying a backbench seat, spent much of the year ensuring he remained a burr beneath Turnbull's blanket, reminding anyone who would listen that the party under Turnbull was straying far from its conservative roots. Abbott looked over-pleased when a Tasmanian anarchist allegedly head-butted him in a Hobart street.

Senator Sam Dastyari in the Senate in Parliament House on the 5th of December 2017. Fedpol. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Senator Sam Dastyari in the Senate in Parliament House on the 5th of December 2017. Fedpol. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Amid it all, in what was possibly the oddest moment in Australian parliamentary history, Pauline Hanson breezed in to a sitting of the Senate wearing a full burqa. The then attorney-general, George Brandis, ripped in to Senator Hanson for undermining relations with the Muslim community.

"To ridicule that community, to drive it into a corner, to mock its religious garments is an appalling thing to do," he said.

Brandis would end the year out of cabinet and preparing to take a new job as Australia's high commissioner in London.

Identity and foreign shores proved the memes of the parliamentary year. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warned that she'd have trouble trusting a New Zealand Labour government...and within months, found that New Zealand had produced just such an administration.

Australian politicians from all sides also discovered they were dual citizens, and the High Court ruled that in most cases, they were ineligible to serve as parliamentarians.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, having inherited New Zealand citizenship, was the most high-profile of those to fall, despite Turnbull predicting the High Court would exonerate him.

When his electorate of New England sent him triumphantly back to Parliament after a byelection, Joyce celebrated by dumping Turnbull's end-of-year ministerial reshuffle into a trough of bad odour by insisting on sacking one of the Nationals' best performers, Darren Chester, from cabinet.

As 2017 ground towards a close, Shorten, who had spent much of the year skating free of most serious political problems - largely because the Coalition insisted on consuming itself - found himself suddenly exposed to big trouble in little China by his NSW ally, Sam Dastyari.

Dastyari, having persuaded a Chinese donor to pay some of his personal bills, was found to have warned the donor that Australian security was listening to his phone. Finally, Dastyari was exposed for misleading his party and the public about a speech he made to the Chinese community in which he'd supported China's military expansion.

Dastyari was a "double agent", hissed Peter Dutton, who would end 2017 as Home Affairs Minister: the czar of Australia's security apparatus and thus the scourge of double agents everywhere.

Shorten, having given Dastyari more chances than he deserved, finally prevailed on him to resign from Parliament. Dastyari's right-wing NSW allies weren't happy with Shorten, who was also involved in tricky negotiations with left-wing militant unions designed to shore up his support in Victoria.

Meanwhile, Shorten and Labor, who had once crowed their side had no dual-citizenship problems, face an uncertain start to 2018 with several byelections likely to be forced on ALP MPs because of dual citizenship.

Political paradox abounded.

Turnbull's government had long resisted calls for a royal commission into the banking industry.

In the end, pressure from within its own ranks forced the government to buckle. Weakened by lack of numbers - dual citizen John Alexander was following Barnaby Joyce to a byelection - Turnbull faced a backbench revolt. To save himself, he announced a royal commission into banking in the last week of the Parliament.

Turnbull almost blew a gasket with excitement when Alexander survived a challenge for the seat of Bennelong from former Labor premier of NSW, Kristina Keneally. It meant Turnbull's government maintained the barest majority in the House of Representatives. But in this political year, swings tended to meet roundabouts: it's thought Keneally will end up in federal Parliament regardless, replacing Dastyari in the Senate.

Still, despite months of hateful claim and counter-claim, when the Australian public was asked to vote on whether same-sex marriage should be legalised, love won the day.

Australian streets and buildings took on the hues of a rainbow as the numbers came in: almost 80 per cent of eligible voters had their say, and 61.6 per cent of them said yes. The last day of Parliament became a group hug as all the House of Representatives voted to legalise same-sex marriage, with only four MPs against and around a dozen abstaining.

But as 2017 headed to Christmas, only 54 refugees had flown to the US from Manus Island and Nauru under the deal that so angered Trump at the start of the year.

Another 130 from Nauru and about 60 from Manus are expected to make the journey in January.

About 1600 remain in limbo.

This story This crazy political year started with an angry phone call - but love ultimately won the day first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.