ONE very small English boy is going to have a very big impact in Australia in 2014. Republicans should look away now.
Prince George, third in line to the British throne, is expected to join his parents the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge when they head to Australia and New Zealand in April.
The birth of Prince George on July 22 was one of the biggest stories of 2013 and it was no different in Australia.
The birth of William and Kate’s baby – third in line to the throne – was choreographed to prove the Windsors are modern and therefore still relevant.
Kate Middleton had already recruited a new generation of royal fans and the birth of Prince George in late July had commentators cooing over the “stability” provided by having four generations of succession alive at once for the first time in 100 years.
The scandals of years past, and concerns over the lack of public support for Prince Charles and Camilla, were nowhere to be seen.
Australian Republican Movement national director David Morris, on the other hand, was depressed by the over-the-top coverage in Australia.
“We express our patriotism through pride in our values of egalitarianism, fairness and mateship – not people being born to rule,” he said at the time.
That might be true but Aussies are suckers for a big celebrity story and that’s what the royal birth was.
It had an Australian feel too, with the future king wrapped in a white shawl made from Australian merino wool and then swaddled in a blanket designed by an Australian mum when he was first shown off outside the Lindo Wing.
Three weeks later Prince William revealed the new family’s first international tour would be Down Under in 2014.
If the republicans thought coverage of Prince George’s birth was insane, they better brace themselves for the frenzy that will meet the Cambridges for their first family visit to Australia.
It was a different story for one-time royal favourite Rolf Harris.
The Australian entertainer ended 2013 facing 13 child sex charges and even if he is found not guilty at his trial, scheduled to start in April, the damage to his reputation is done.
Harris has been widely loved in the United Kingdom where he’s lived for more than 50 years.
This fact was proven by the way the press dealt with him after he was first questioned by officers from Operation Yewtree back in November 2012.
No-one wanted to believe he was facing such serious allegations and he wasn’t named when subsequently arrested in March.
AAP visited his Berkshire home to find London paparazzi – not usually known for their compassion – camped more than 100 metres from the front gate.
They didn’t want to cause additional stress because they’d heard Harris was psychologically fragile.
British tabloid The Sun finally published Harris’s name in April but police didn’t officially name him until he was charged in late August.
Harris, who has indicated he’ll plead not guilty, has been dropped as the face of British Paints, the host of hit TV show Animal Clinic and as the narrator on Olive the Ostrich.
His paintings have been removed from cruise liners including the Queen Mary 2 and no-one, including Buckingham Palace, seems to know what’s happened to his 2005 portrait of Her Majesty.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would like to travel next year but probably won’t.
He remains cooped up inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London avoiding extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations.
In June 2013 – a year after he entered the diplomatic mission – Assange revealed that even if Sweden dropped its investigation he wouldn’t leave.
The Australian said the United States had likely already issued a sealed extradition order over WikiLeaks’ release of classified documents.
“If I walked out the front door I could be arrested in relation to the US … right now,” he said at the time.
The 42-year-old told Ecuador’s foreign minister he was strong enough to remain inside the embassy for five years.
Margaret Thatcher was a tough leader who continued to divide Britain, even in death.
When she died in April, aged 87, Australian human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson said it was wrong to eulogise the Iron Lady as a conviction politician because her beliefs were “half-baked”.
But former prime minister John Howard, Australia’s official representative at Baroness Thatcher’s funeral, said the fact some celebrated her passing proved she’d made her mark on the world.
Trenton Oldfield never achieved world-wide fame but he became a minor celebrity in the UK after disrupting the 2012 boat race between Oxford and Cambridge universities.
He was jailed for seven weeks and then, in mid-2013, the government tried to kick him out of the country.
But the 37-year-old, originally from Sydney, won an immigration tribunal appeal to remain in London with his British wife and baby daughter.
During the hearing Oldfield declared his family couldn’t live in Australia because it was “a particularly racist country”.
It seems Australia is also particularly inventive.
Oxford Dictionaries announced that its 2013 international word of the year – “selfie” – was first used in 2002 by a young Aussie bloke.
Describing a self-portrait of his lip injured during a drunken fall, “Hopey” wrote online: “Sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”
Australia’s creative gardeners also made history in 2013 by claiming top prize for the first time at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show.
The British Labour Party won’t be sending flowers to Australian strategist Lynton Crosby, however.
Crosby, referred to as the Wizard of Oz in the British press after he helped Howard win four consecutive terms, is being paid $A853,000 to oversee the Tories’ 2015 election campaign.
Labour leader Ed Miliband has repeatedly attacked the Australian for appealing to voters’ prejudices on immigration as well as focusing on mudslinging, division, smear and character assassination.
“This is a Conservative Party preparing to fight the dirtiest general election campaign that we have seen in this country for over 20 years,” the opposition leader said while slamming the “Crosbyisation” of the Tories.
Labour is so worried they’ve called in ALP guru Bruce Hawker to advise how best to counter punch. Roll on 2014.
By Julian Drape (AAP)