"You have unleashed the lynch mob" ... MP Craig Thomson had a tough year. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
It was the year the world didn't end, disappointing at least one wag who wagered $150 on the Mayan apocalypse despite having no prospect of collecting the winnings. A year when absurdity soared to awesome heights, when a man fell from space and many more fell from glory. What better vessel then to shepherd us through the murky shallows of 2012 than the year's greatest folly: the billionaire Clive Palmer's fantastical Titanic II.
''The sky's the limit, I think,'' the mining magnate boasted in July, somehow confusing his sea-going vessel with aircraft. His plan to replicate the ill-fated cruise ship, which sank 100 years ago in the north Atlantic Ocean, made headlines around the world this year, including a Chinese report about ''an Australian cowboy who likes making grand statements''.
Indeed, you had to sit tall in the saddle to stand out this year. So welcome aboard the good ship Titanic II for this voyage through the flotsam and jetsam of 2012. Plotting our course from the poop deck is Commander Palmer, who vows his ship won't sink, despite his loony scheme having more holes than an iron ore deposit in Karratha. Promising to include ''proper lifeboats'' should put passengers at ease somewhat.
Family feud ... Gina Rinehart with son John and daughter Ginia.
So sit back on your banana lounge, sip a mocktail and enjoy the view on board as we take an imaginary trip down the year that has been.
The sun is strong and the melting of the Arctic permafrost should ensure plentiful seas for this maiden voyage of the Titanic II. At the helm is Captain Francesco Schettino, who has been looking for a gig since the Costa Concordia ploughed into the island of Giglio like something from a Hollywood disaster movie. Titanic, say.
The clumsy captain was last seen fleeing his sinking ship in January while leaving behind stranded passengers, claiming he ''tripped'' into a lifeboat. This time around he has been chained to the tiller to ensure no such accidents.
Billionare gone bust ... Nathan Tinkler. Photo: Darren Pateman
Joining us on board in first class, with exclusive access to cheap foreign labour and subservient Coalition MPs, are several paid-up members of the billionaires club. Gina Rinehart, who declined a free upgrade to a family suite, has promised to host poetry recitals for the poor whingers in third class who are ''too busy drinking or smoking and socialising'' to bother working for the princely sum of $2 a day.
Guests are looking forward to hearing the heiress rhyme ''rampant tax'' with ''political hacks'', in what one critic in February dubbed
''the universe's worst poem''. The world's richest woman is as lyrical as a sea shanty and as surly as a scurvy-ridden belly robber. To wit: ''Some envious unthinking people have been conned/To think prosperity is created by waving a magic wand/Through such unfortunate ignorance, too much abuse is hurled/Against miners, workers and related industries who strive to build the world.''
Not quite Cinderella ... Julia Gillard evades protesters. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
''Bite me, Byron!'' she adds. Staying on billionaires row, Nathan Tinkler's berth appears to have gone missing, along with Nathan Tinkler.
Working up a sweat on his StairMaster is James Packer, fresh from his star turn in The Biggest Loser and with plans to build an on-board casino (sorry, ''integrated resort''). His proposal has not been subject to independent evaluation, competitive tender or community consultation, but Barry O'Farrell has backed it so, like, whatever.
''I'm a lover, not a fighter,'' texts the Premier, who is attending a Leonard Cohen concert and sends his apologies.
The former Star boss Sid Vaikunta's chances of running the casino are considered slim. Similarly, plans for patrons to be couriered to the cruise ship by helicopter from the middle of Sydney Harbour were recently scuppered by Malcolm Turnbull, who took a break from ''being Zen'' to tweet his objections.
Headlining the onboard entertainment in the Titanic II's lavish washrooms - after the planned performance by Pussy Riot hit a snag - is the comic duo Abbott & Gillard, direct from a sellout stint at Parliament House.
It's been a stellar year for two of the country's most consistent comedians. Who could forget their laughable attempts to corral asylum seekers offshore, which reduced several members of Parliament to tears? Unfortunately, they had to cancel a summer gig on Nauru because of inadequate accommodation, but the boat people's pain is our gain.
The fact that Tony Abbott was hilariously wrong in claiming the carbon tax would see the South Australian steel town of Whyalla ''wiped off the map'' came as light relief to many, not least the residents of Whyalla. Reviews of his parliamentary performances this year were mixed, it must be said. Federal Labor MPs criticised the pugilistic Opposition Leader for his negativity. Oh, they added, and he's ''a hack, a dog and a douchebag, an aggressive, carping, bitter, mindless, deceptive, dodgy, rancid bully''. And displays sub-standard seamanship skills, too, apparently.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, kicked off the year by promising ''better days'', then embraced slapstick by losing a shoe while fleeing from an Australia Day protest in Canberra. Our very own Cinderella then rounded out the year by face-planting while on tour in India.
We are yet to confirm rumours that she plans to lift her heels Gangnam Style in the next season of Dancing with the Stars. But the Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, has offered his leader unqualified support, telling reporters: ''I haven't seen what she said but let me say I support what it is that she said.''
While critics pointed out Gillard's ''big arse'' and bad taste in trade-union boyfriends, few could fault her performances in My Big Fat Greek Reno and the sequel to The Real Julia v The Ruddbot. Though seeing off a leadership challenge in February by a man described by his own colleagues as dysfunctional, demeaning, hypocritical and chaotic perhaps looked better on paper.
In a big year on stage, Gillard also managed to redefine the word ''misogynist'', thought few Australian men seem to have noticed the change. Her attempts to similarly mollify the definition of ''slush fund'' were not as successful.
Mullet-haired logophiles celebrated the official induction of the word ''bogan'' into The Oxford English Dictionary in June. Fittingly, we are honoured to welcome on board today Shane Warne, Lara Bingle and the cast of Channel Ten's short-lived ''dramality'' series The Shire.
Other guests in the loosely named celebrity class for this maiden voyage are Russell Crowe, who has booked a single room, and Matthew Newton, who has booked a seat at the bar. Guests travelling solo might avail themselves of the complimentary escort service allegedly run by the MP Craig Thomson, who wishes to stress that that's not his credit card nor his signature on those receipts and how dare you suggest otherwise.
Rupert Murdoch has taken a break from tweeting to grace us with his presence in first class, proving that even being declared unfit to run a major international company doesn't cost you a seat at the captain's table. Accompanying him as always is bodyguard Wendi Deng, who also doubles as his wife and heir generator.
Unfortunately, some well-regarded figures were unable to make today's voyage. Among them we sincerely regret the absence of Neil Armstrong, Margaret Whitlam, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, Jimmy Little, Robert Hughes, Maurice Sendak and Whitney Houston. Though no one regrets the no-show by Jimmy Savile, particularly not the BBC.
The former yellow Wiggle Sam Moran, affectionately dubbed the ''hired hand'' by fellow skivvied band members, also sends his apologies, having insisted in January that he is looking forward to spending more time with his family and exploring new opportunities in a fantasy world of magical pixies and unicorns.
Casting your gaze skywards now, you might spy the veteran 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones, who is happily looking down on us all from his chaff bag in the crow's nest (which has been renamed ''the Died of Shame Salon'' in his honour). If you listened particularly closely, you might have heard him say sorry in December for describing Lebanese Muslims as ''vermin'' and ''mongrels''. He also had a few bad words to say about Mercedes-Benz, but only after it stopped sponsoring his radio show and asked for the free car back.
His travelling companion in the Shame Salon atop the main mast is the Queensland Coalition MP Teresa Gambaro, who similarly apologised in January after calling for immigrants to be taught how to use deodorant because they smelt funny.
Speaking of bad smells, we welcome aboard Kyle Sandilands, who is travelling in his official capacity as the Frank Sinatra Ambassador for Respect to Australian Women Journalists.
It's a glorious day to be out on the ocean, where the water sparkles like a silver medal in saltwater tears. Treading water in the second-best of three Olympic-size pools on the Titanic II is the Australian swimming team, featuring the weepy backstroker Emily Seebohm, the underwear model-cum-swimmer Stephanie Rice and the misfiring missile James Magnussen.
They should take some positive reinforcement from comedian Magda Szubanski, who in February revealed herself to be happily ''gay, gay, gay, gay, gay''. She plans to officiate at several same-sex unions on board once the ship leaves Australian waters. Among those apparently hoping to seal the deal is Tony Abbott's sister, Christine Forster, who came out in April.
The former Australian tennis player Margaret Court, an evangelical Christian who considers such couplings unhealthy and unnatural, has sent her apologies, much to the disappointment of the rainbow-coloured people who protested against her views at the Australian Open.
We would like to draw your attention to some of the viewing delights awaiting passengers on our round-the-world tour.
Highlights will include fantastical sights such as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Temple of Artemis, Sydney's second airport and the eurozone. However, any link between the destruction of the Colossus of Rhodes and the present Greek economy is purely coincidental.
Casting your gaze starboard, please keep an eye out for Barack Obama, teetering atop the Fiscal Cliff of America.
Then, as we sail on to Europe, our on-board photographer hopes guests might catch a glimpse of an up-the-duff Duchess of Cambridge in the buff.
Our ship will also swing by Switzerland, where scientists will attempt to explain the discovery in July of the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle.
Julian Assange sends his apologies but is otherwise engaged at the Ecuadorean embassy.
A ship of this magnitude would not float without the tireless work of the crew below deck. Slaving over a briny mussel soup in the galley is the former federal speaker Peter Slipper, who is fresh from celebrating his Pyrrhic court victory over his ex-staffer James Ashby. Joining him in the kitchen is the former MP Mal Brough, busily cooking up a hearty dish of crow.
The Titanic II's security room is manned 24/7 by a crack squad of Sydney police officers, who have their Taser guns at the ready in case any harmless Brazilian students seek to stowaway on board.
NSW Police always get their man (except when that man is responsible for a wave of drive-by shootings in Sydney). Just ask the former abattoir worker Malcolm Naden, who was tracked down in March in bushland west of Gloucester after a measly seven-year manhunt. ''Thank God it's over; I've had enough,'' he said to his captors.
As the year splutters to its end, we know just how he feels.
Last and certainly least of all on our tour of the inglorious Titanic II is the ship's clean-up crew, featuring a motley collection of 2DayFM radio presenters, St John's College students and various members of the Obeid family, who even now are busy mopping up the chunder box while considering ways to flip it at a profit.
So hoist the sail up the mizzen-mast, raise the anchor and prepare to cast off into 2013, if ye dare. If the past year is anything to go by, there be rough seas ahead.