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In 2023, ChatGPT passes the New York bar exam and is elected Dean of Harvard.

2023 – It was a year of ups and downs; a year of losses and gains; a year of joy and heartbreak; but most of all it was a year which was the sum of three integer cubes, meaning – as well you know – that also every prime divisor is a sum of three integer cubes. So let’s take a look back in befuddlement at the year that was, and hopefully won’t be again.

January

Australia lives up to its reputation as a land of drought and flooding rains, with a series of literal floods and the usual metaphorical drought of politicians having any idea what to do about it. After following the standard political response – standing around in a hard hat and yellow vest and frowning at the damage – Prime Minister Anthony Albanese jets to Papua New Guinea to see if he can stop the rain before it gets here. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton calls for future cyclones and rain events to be placed in mandatory off-shore detention, claiming that Labor is “weak on cyclones”.

In the US, Congress resumes for the first time since the mid-term elections and gets back to business as usual, otherwise known as cage fighting. After 273 rounds of voting, the warring members of congress finally agree to elect Abraham Lincoln as Speaker. “Sure, he’s dead,” says a spokesperson, ”but he is still better than any of the other options.”

In sport, Australia defeats South Africa in a Test cricket series. South Africa shock the world by admitting Australia was the better team on the day, and refusing to claim a moral victory or invoke the spirit of cricket, despite the urging of English commentators; at the time, nobody understands this. Also, in an anecdote which seems suspiciously out of place in this column, Michael Smith wins the world darts championship; it is a fair bet that this may come up again.

February

The world is on edge as China attacks the United States with the ultimate weapon: balloons. Unable to shoot down the slow-moving balloons with their speedy jet fighters, the United States – in one of the clumsiest segues in publishing history – call in recently-crowned World Darts Champion Michael Smith, who brings down the final balloon with a tricky triple 19.

China claims the balloons were harmless leftovers from Xi Jinping’s birthday party. When US President Jo Biden points out that the balloons carried sophisticated spying equipment, Xi says that Taiwan must have put it there, and offers to drop in to the island nation along with 200 000 close friends in the People’s Liberation Army to see if he can sort things out.

The national debate about the Indigenous Voice to Parliament begins to build, with the nation’s newspapers and media websites filled with countless op-ed columns. Some pundits are for the Voice, some against it, but all are united in a thorough inability to explain why.

In sport, Australia wins a third consecutive – and sixth overall – Women’s T20 World Cup, amazing fans by doing so without denigrating opponents, umpires or each other. Asked for comment, England coach Brandon MacCallum notes, “I can’t see that catching on.”

March

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, sensing that the Voice campaign needs a boost, flies to India to drum up votes.

Meanwhile, former PM Paul Keating – realising that he had not been mentioned in the media for almost two weeks – lashes the AUKUS treaty, thundering, “this is the worst decision by an Australian government since the ones I made!”

Keating also criticises Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, Anthony Albanese, John Howard, Penny Wong, John Howard, Richard Marles, Ronald McDonald, the Easter Bunny, and John Howard. The full list is not available, as it is understood Keating is still going, although the thrust of his criticism appears to be that the people on the list disagree with him (or did in the past, or might in the future).

In China, the Chinese Presidential Election results in Xi Jinping being re-elected with a fairly impressive 234 per cent of the vote; Xi Jinping is said to be ‘moderately satisfied’ with the outcome, and so will only send his campaign team to prison for 10 years..

Leader of the opposition in Victoria, John Pesutto, announces that he will move to have Moira Deeming expelled from the Liberal Party; this shocks Victorian voters, who were unaware that there was an opposition in Victoria, let alone one that had a leader.

ChatGPT passes the New York Bar exam, despite the fact that it made up some of the cases it cited. When pressed on this, one of the examiners said, “yeah, it made up some cases, but when we looked at them they made more sense than anything the Supreme Court has handed down recently”.

April

Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, announces the results of his review of Australian Climate policy, concluding that all of Australia’s CO2 emissions – along with the disappearance of Harold Holt and the Great Depression – were Scott Morrison’s fault.

In Europe, Germany turns off nuclear power, deciding that the use of nuclear power is ‘morally irresponsible’. ‘Morally irresponsible’ turns out to be German for ‘better off made in France’, since Germany addresses the shortfall in their power grid through purchasing electricity from France’s nuclear power plants.

SpaceX conducts the first launch of its Starship Rocket (which is not designed to fly to the stars). The launch goes exceedingly well for just on four minutes, at which point the rocket explodes. The English Cricket Team send Elon Musk a basket of fruit and a card congratulating him on the ‘moral success’ of the launch.

May

King Charles the Third is crowned king of England, Australia and all other Commonwealth realms, assuming there are any. This causes fierce debate among the 23 academics in Australia who actually care, and prompts a resounding ‘huh’ from the rest of the country. Unsurprisingly, PM Anthony Albanese is on hand to join in the celebrations, as part of his attempt to spend less time in Australia than Santa Claus does.

Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi arrives in Australia for a diplomatic visit and is shocked to bump in to Anthony Albanese at the airport. “Imagine seeing you here!” exclaims Modi in surprise. “At the airport? I’m always at the airport; I’ve got a room and everything” responds the PM. Mr Albanese wished Mr Modi a pleasant visit, although he warns that Australia is “a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there”.

Meanwhile, ChatGPT is elected Dean of Harvard. Democratic Party researchers consult constitutional lawyers as to whether or not an artificial intelligence can legally be President. The lawyers respond that they are pretty sure no other kind of intelligence ever has.

June

Australia defeat India in the World Test Cricket Championship. English commentator Michael Vaughnis critical of the outcome, noting: “Well, I guess if you are happy winning by scoring more runs than your opponent, then this would count, but I don’t like to win that way.” Many pundits wonder how he would know.

In the United States, Donald Trump is indicted for mishandling classified documents. The documents in question are believed to contain information such as lists of US spies, the nuclear codes and at least seven of the 11 secret herbs and spices in Kentucky Fried chicken; Trump assures a concerned populace that he has the entire recipe memorised.

Chris Bowen announces Australia’s plan to reach 100 per cent renewable energy. While details are vague at this stage, early indications are that everyone in Australia will be forced to buy a Tesla (those in marginal seats will receive subsidies) and run their homes by plugging a cable into the cigarette lighter. The Teslas would be recharged at special stations producing green energy via a process which is commercial in confidence, but believed to involve hamster wheels and very large rubber bands.

July

In Ashes news, the English cricket team, and indeed the entire United Kingdom, suffers a nervous breakdown when Johnny Bairstow is stumped by Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey. Bairstow claims that the action was not within the spirit of cricket; when journalists point out that he had tried to do the same thing himself, Bairstow replied, “Yeah, but I missed; it isn’t against the spirit of cricket if you’re no good at it. That’s why we have so much spirit.”

England captain Ben Stokes noted that he wouldn’t want to win that way. “Playing better than your opponents and within the rules? Can’t see that catching on. Meanwhile, the Members at Lords show Australians how real gentlemen observe the true spirit of cricket, by abusing the players as they walk off to lunch; even the UK Prime Minister gets involved.

“There isn’t enough tea, jam and scones to get over the trauma of these reprehensible actions,“ said whoever was Prime Minister at the lunch break. Those comments were echoed at tea by the new Prime Minister, who also expressed his hope that he could remain Prime Minister for the rest of the series.

August

For the third month in a row, there is a mass shooting in the United States, although it is barely reported as this hardly counts as news any more. An NRA spokesperson points out that this would not have happened if more people carried guns; when asked if he understood irony, the spokesperson said: “My wife takes care of that; does the washing, too.”

In the fifth Ashes Test, England secures a rare win. Asked what he thought the turning point of the match was, Ben Stokes nominated the ball change in the 37th over, when England managed to replace the old ball, which was losing its shape, with a set of lawn bowls.

The controversy doesn’t end there, with the England team failing to join the Australians for a post-series drink. Stokes played down the issue, saying: “We have no issue with those cheating, thieving, lying, stealing, brainless, yobbo convict reprobates. We just all had a headache.” His comments shock cricket commentators everywhere, as none of them would ever have guessed that Stokes knew the word ‘reprobate’.

Meanwhile, the Australian Women’s soccer team reel off a series of brilliant victories to make the semi-finals of the World Cup, amazing fans by doing so without denigrating opponents, referees or each other. Many people begin to notice a trend.

In his continuing effort to bring down the cost of living for ordinary Australians, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese secures an invitation to his son to join the Qantas Chairmen’s lounge. “I will bring the cost of living down, even if I have to do it one person at a time, and even if I have to start with my own family as an example to the nation,” said the PM. In unrelated news, the government moves to block flights from one of Qantas’ major competitors.

September

In a controversial interview on Sky News, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton confirms that he will vote No in the current Voice referendum, but if it fails he will (if elected) hold a second referendum, in which he will definitely vote yes, probably. Or not. When the interviewer asks if he has ever heard of irony, Dutton replies: “I’ve never been, but I hear it’s nice; near France isn’t it?”

Archaeologists in Zambia find the world’s oldest wooden structure, dating as far back as 476,000 years. Sophisticated tests and DNA matching reveal it to be the remains of Keith Richard’s first go-cart.

On one of his occasional visits to Australia, PM Anthony Albanese announces an independent Inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The inquiry, which is given the working title, Did Scott Morrison suck in the pandemic, or what?, will not examine the roles of the state governments that actually handled the pandemic, showing that the PM doesn’t understand irony either.

October

In its ongoing effort to destroy every skerrick of credibility the Olympics has ever had, the IOC approves the inclusion of cricket, flag football, lacrosse, squash and baseball at the 2028 Summer Olympics. On the plus side, the decision gives a boost to Australia’s plans to include Tiggy, Hopscotch, Red Rover and What’s the Time Mr Wolf in the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.

Speaking of made-up sports, the world championship in Korfball is held for the 12th time, with the Netherlands winning for the 11th time, suggesting that Korfball is a sport made up by the Netherlands and played by pretty much nobody else. If that sounds familiar, New Zealand uses the same strategy to dominate rugby union.

In Australia, the Voice referendum is held and the no vote called as the winner about 3.5 minutes after polls close. Many yes activists react with the same stoicism and acceptance one expects from the English cricket team, although indigenous yes campaigners sensibly declare a week of silence, which they were unfortunately unable to extend to politicians.

Anthony Albanese announced he would need to seek the appropriate forum to give the result its due consideration, noting that Tahiti looks nice. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton announced the referendum result clearly indicated that, finally, once and for all, he should be allowed to take over Hogwarts.

November

The month begins in chaos as the Optus communications network crashes when an administrator forgets that he had caps lock on when typing in his password. The situation is so dire than PM Anthony Albanese is forced to fly to the Cook Islands to get a workable signal.

Worried they have not yet wasted enough time this year, the Senate holds an inquiry into what is essentially a very bad day for a private enterprise with as much to do with the Senate as the Riemann hypothesis. Under questioning, Optus CEO Kelly Rosmarin remains defiant. “Look,’ she says, “We tried turning the system off and back on again, and it didn’t work; what more could we do?”

Australian naval divers from the HMAS Toowoomba are injured by a sonic weapon allegedly deployed by a Chinese warship in the area. Trouble is averted when Chinese Premier Li Qiang explains the sonic vibrations occurred when a sailor on the ship dropped his smartphone into the toilet while it was set on vibrate; plus, the Premier assures Prime Minister Albanese that he is a very handsome boy. Naturally the PM flies to China to thank him personally.

In sport, Australia wins the men’s T20 World Cup, defeating India in the final. Many Indian cricket commentators follow what has become known as the ‘English Position’ and declare that India was the better team, and champions in every sense of the word except the sense where you win. As expected, Ben Stokes is the first to congratulate India on their magnificent moral victory.

December

COP 28, the United Nations Climate Challenge Conference, is held in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, coincidentally the world’s sixth-largest exporter of oil. In a sincere effort to battle climate change, 70,000 attendees jump on the most polluting form of transport this side of an M1 Abrams tank and fly to the conference, emitting about three zillion tonnes of carbon in the process.

Greta Thunberg also attends, but in line with her values travels to the conference via a sailboat made of recycled water bottles and powered by her own arrogance and condescension, setting several water speed world records in the process. On arrival she uses her smartphone, tablet and PC – each of which takes about two tonnes of mined ore to produce – to harangue the other delegates about their environmental footprints.

Asked by a reporter if she understands irony, Thunberg replies, “Yeah, it’s like, rain on your wedding day, or having too many spoons.”

“Explains a lot,” notes the reporter.

Thus the year rolls on towards its conclusion, and the world looks forward to a brighter year next year; a year with more love and less war; more unity and less division; more level headedness, and less fodder for cynical humour writers cranking out snarky, condescending columns like this.

Mostly we look forward to a year that follows a happy and safe Christmas and sees all of our readers and their loved ones safe and well.

© Shane Budden 2023

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