The following piece formed part of our 40th Anniversary Issue in 2019. Here we take a humorous look at how our country has changed over the course of the four decades since Penthouse Magazine's inception in 1979.
It’s amazing to think that Penthouse Australia has been going strong for 40 years. It’s even more amazing to think that I personally have been going, if not strong, at least basically viable, for the same amount of time. Yes, the magazine, and I, your humble correspondent, both celebrate our fortieth birthdays in 2019, and both of us are now looking back over our lifespans and marvelling at just how different the Australia we live in is to the Australia we were born into. Sometimes looking back at 1979 feels almost like looking into, you know, like, the past or something. Forty years is a long time, and this country’s been through a lot, but we’ve come through a stronger, wiser, more agile nation, just as Penthouse is today a stronger, wiser, more agile publication. And as for myself, I am weaker, stupider and slower. But what do you expect? I’m forty. Now let’s look at some of the momentous events we’ve all shared during Penthouse Australia’s life.
1979: Australia’s highest daily rainfall is recorded, at Bellenden Ker station in Queensland. Many years later, children will marvel at the fact that water used to literally fall from the sky. In April, Domico Speranza hijacks a plane at Sydney Airport for four and a half hours before being shot dead by police, thereby missing his connecting flight.
1980: Queen Elizabeth II opens the High Court building in Canberra but refuses to tell anyone else how she did it, meaning nobody else can get in for years. Baby Azaria Chamberlain disappears from an Uluru campsite in an event widely regarded as completely unremarkable.
1981: The coroner finds that Azaria Chamberlain was killed by a dingo, thereby ending the matter and allowing everyone to get on with their lives. Tasmania holds a referendum on the Franklin Dam. A third of voters vote for “no dam”, which was not one of the options, proving yet again that Tasmanians cannot be trusted with democracy.
1982: Lindy Chamberlain stands trial for the murder of her daughter Azaria, surprising everyone who was sure this was all sorted out last year. She is found guilty after failing to convince the jury that she is not a dingo.
1983: Bob Hawke wins the federal election in a landslide. Three days later the Australian dollar drops 10 percent in value in a complete coincidence. Australia II wins the American Cup, sparking nationwide celebrations as Australians rejoice in their newfound expert knowledge of sailing, and Prime Minister Hawke makes his famous declaration, “Today every boss has a sack up his bum”. Later these words will be included in the preamble to the Constitution.
Image: Hawke celebrates Australia’s win in the America’s Cup in Perth, 1983.
1984: Medicare comes into effect ushering in a nightmarish reign of total communism. In February, Elton John gets married in Sydney, an event that surprises on several levels. In December, Bob Hawke defeats Andrew Peacock in another election but finds his majority reduced, something that his friend Blanche d’Alpuget assures him happens to all men from time to time.
1985: In February, AM stereo broadcasting begins in Australia. Nobody is quite sure why this matters. In March, Channel Seven launches new soap opera Neighbours but cancels it later in the year, judging it to have no staying power.
1986: In Queensland Joh Bjelke-Petersen wins his final election as Premier at the age of six hundred and eighty-nine. Lindy Chamberlain is released from prison after the discovery of Azaria’s matinee jacket disproves the police’s claim that matinee jackets are a myth.
1987: Bob Hawke is re-elected on the back of his promise that no child will live in poverty by 1990, tapping into the Australian people’s craving for ridiculously impossible promises.
1988: Australia celebrates its bicentenary: millions of colouring books are filled by inept schoolchildren trying to be patriotic. Also, Home and Away begins, like European occupation, on a beach in New South Wales.
1989: Joan Kirner becomes the first woman to become Victorian Premier, and Gaby Kennard becomes the first Australian woman to fly non-stop around the world, two towering achievements causing similar levels of bladder discomfort.
1990: Bob Hawke wins re-election yet again, as pundits start to suspect Andrew Peacock gains some kind of sexual thrill from losing elections. In November Paul Keating announces that the country is experiencing a recession and that it is basically all our fault.
1991: Australia takes part in the Gulf War, sort of. Paul Keating challenges Bob Hawke for the prime ministership on the basis of the fact that it is his turn. He loses, but then does it again and wins, celebrating his victory by drinking the blood of a peasant.
1992: The High Court rules in the case of Mabo v Queensland, overturning the concept of terra nullius and ending racism forever.
1993: Liberal leader John Hewson looks certain to win the federal election, but runs into a snag when he fails to identify the correct cost of a birthday cake. After Paul Keating demonstrates an ability to identify the cost of a wide variety of cakes, the nation rewards him with another term.
Bob Hawke wins re-election yet again, as pundits start to suspect Andrew Peacock gains some kind of sexual thrill from losing elections.
1994: Businessman Christopher Skase is arrested in Spain, ensuring he will definitely face justice for his crimes.
1995: The national carrier, Qantas, is privatised, relieving millions of Australians who had always enjoyed air travel but worried that their holidays were not making enough people rich.
1996: Paul Keating’s Waterloo arrives at last, as the townsfolk rise up with pitchforks and torches and expel him from his dark castle. Against all odds, John Howard becomes prime minister despite having died over a decade earlier.
1997: New MP Pauline Hanson causes controversy, with some saying she is racist, but others saying she only seems that way because of everything she says. Tensions rise over Hanson’s inflammatory statements, but all agree that her time in the spotlight will be short.
1998: John Howard promises that if people vote for him everything will be more expensive. Kim Beazley promises that if people vote for him, he will become prime minister. They vote for Howard.
1999: Nothing really happened in 1999.
2000: The Sydney Olympics are held to massive acclaim. All Australians put aside their differences and come together as one to tell Cathy Freeman that if she loses her race, she is dead to us. Luckily, she wins, and many other Australians win too. The Olympics are declared the best ones ever and Australia therefore officially becomes the best country on earth, a title it still holds thanks to other Olympics being really crap. The long-distinguished career of Nikki Webster is just one of the wonderful outcomes the Games bring to the nation.
2001: Kim Beazley prepares to finally become prime minister, but is stymied when September 11 happens and his previous pledge that Labor would be “A friend to terrorists everywhere” comes back to haunt him. The arrival of the Tampa further cruels Labor’s chances when the government reveals it saw refugees feeding their children to sharks and laughing and doing the rude finger.
2002: The end of an era as Ansett Australia shuts down. Australians’ options for domestic flights are now severely restricted, a development that bothers absolutely nobody.
2003: Pauline Hanson is sentenced to three years in prison for electoral fraud, thereby winning the Silver Logie for Best Comedy. Michael Jeffrey becomes Governor-General, promising to be “a force for anonymity”.
2004: Labor Leader Mark Latham aggressively pursues a long-overdue election victory, but makes a tactical error when he meets John Howard at a function and instead of shaking his hand, beats the prime minister senseless and runs off with his wallet. Howard wins another term easily and declares his intention to remain prime minister “until all of your flesh has rotted from your pathetic mortal bones”.
2005: The Cronulla riots take place, as local youth express their outrage that immigrants’ skin colour doesn’t match the sand. Radio personality Alan Jones whips up support for the riots, in line with his role as “Australia’s Sweetheart”. Australia loses the Ashes because of some cheating bastards.
2006: An eerie calm descends upon Australia, making everyone nervous.
2007: Kevin Rudd becomes prime minister, running on a successful platform of making people think he is John Howard’s biological son. He immediately sets out an ambitious agenda and a detailed plan as to how he will fail to carry out any of it.
Kevin Rudd and wife,Thérèse Rein, celebrate election victory in 2007.
2008: Kevin Rudd makes an official apology to Indigenous Australians for the Stolen Generation. Conservatives angrily protest that they were nowhere near the place when the generation was stolen and declare they have been framed.
2009: Despite the global financial crisis, Australia avoids a recession, causing the Opposition to adopt a strong pro-recession platform. Tony Abbott becomes Leader of the Opposition, causing those who have read the Book of Revelation to nod knowingly.
2010: Julia Gillard becomes the prime minister after Kevin Rudd, suffering from severe sleep deprivation, accidentally kills and eats a flight stewardess.
2011: Across Australia, thousands turn out for Say Yes demonstrations to demand action on climate change. The government responds by taking swift and effective bipartisan action to address the crisis, reversing the effects of global warming almost instantly.
2012: Three out of four Wiggles announce their retirements, causing toddlers around the nation to burn their Dorothy the Dinosaur bibs in protest. Dame Elisabeth Murdoch dies, having achieved her dream of becoming the first woman to be younger than her son.
2013: Kevin Rudd becomes prime minister again and then stops being prime minister. Tony Abbott becomes prime minister, but you can already tell he’s feeling a bit toey. Parliament House starts using paper nameplates for its office doors.
2014: NRL star Todd Carney is sacked after photos emerge of him pretending to wee in his own mouth, a violation of the league’s strict “try to stick to common assault” rule. Similar standards of behaviour continue to be absent from parliamentary politics.
2015: Tony Abbott makes Prince Philip a knight, increasing speculation that he is about to launch an invasion of the Holy Land. Later that year Malcolm Turnbull wrests the prime ministership from Abbott, after the latter’s attempt to force each MP to show their loyalty by eating a raw onion backfires.
2016: Turnbull calls an election. The country shuts its eyes and waits for it to go away. It does.
2017: Celebrity chef George Calombaris is charged with assault after he attacks a soccer fan at the A-League grand final who had shouted at him that he mispronounces the word “elements” in a really annoying way. Elsewhere in showbiz, Rebel Wilson wins a defamation case against Bauer Media, which had falsely claimed that she can play more than one character.
2018: Scott Morrison becomes prime minister, causing a mass outbreak of resigned shrugs.
2019: Now happens. Tom Gleeson wins the Gold Logie despite his history of entertaining people. Scott Morrison surprisingly wins re-election as voters warm to his animal magnetism. The prophecy comes to pass and the world ends in late November.