I am accorded a towel but no soap; a bedside lamp but no radio; no TV; no phone. A toilet across the hall has threatening requirements on it, demanding I ‘be considerate’ to my fellow guests and flush it. I dread what will be said by these hellcats when I ask for a taxi.
Some chapter of the Afterlife will be like this, I am certain.
I must discover if they are Seventh-Day Adventists.
Many signs point that way.
Once more Fran Kelly claims ‘Nobody’s listening’ to Labor any more.
Well, they were listening when Gonski was announced and 72 percent wanted it. They were listening when a fast train was mooted and 90 percent wanted it. They were listening when Turnbull’s broadband was announced and 66 percent wanted Labor’s. They’ll be listening tonight when Swanny estimates what the deficit will be and how, in the next ten years, he will deal with it.
She should stop telling lies; she really should.
People are listening now as they listened to Howard alleging mothers threw their babies into the sea. They are listening attentively.
The shower is tepid-warm; I have, aha, my own soap. There are no hooks or shelves to put things on and my clothes, on the floor, are soon soaked by sideward-seeping grey water and what Robin Williams would call ‘gravitational predominance’.
I wonder what is gained, in the management’s view, by this lack of hooks and shelves. A sense of just punishment, perhaps, for the stranger within thy gates. He may be a sinner. Otherwise he would be rich.
I need to do big jobs; and, having made a run for it, am in the toilet confronted by this message:
‘Now that we have you seated –
**Please book and pay for your room before 8.00 pm on the NIGHT BEFORE — We can only guarantee you a bed if it is paid in advance.
**Checkout is BEFORE 10.00 am — If you checkout AFTER 10.00 am you will be charged for an extra night’s accommodation.
**There is NO SMOKING anywhere inside the building.
**If staying in a dorm please use ALL the linen provided and return it with your key at checkout.
**For everyone’s comfort please keep noise to a minimum especially AFTER 10.00 PM.
**Please drink your tea & coffee ONLY in the dining room or outside.
Thank for choosing to stay at xxxx & if we can help you please see us at reception.
I dress, pack a briefcase and in due course in the front office timidly ask the younger Brunhilde for a taxi. ‘Certainly, sir,’ she says, beaming serenely, and one arrives almost immediately. I am so abashed I leave my pillow, an essential tool on Budget Day, behind.
The taxi driver looks exactly like Michael Boddy — vast, red-bearded, rancorous — and propounds an incendiary Katterite farm-loans agenda most convincingly. We arrive at the Reps Entrance and I tip him four dollars.
Viv signs me in and I go through the assassination-prevention machinery with my concealed Swiss army knife undetected, as usual. But at Aussie’s I find my Visa card is missing — left in the taxi, probably — and I have twelve dollars to eke out over four days, and rapidly wonder what backroomer, or Minister, might lend me money. All, in my mind, seem cold-hearted, menacing, suspicious and fervidly unkind.
I queue for coffee. My mobile rings and my card is at the entrance, a good man unexpectedly and warmly avers. He must have rung Viv to get my number; the heavens bless him.
To Shorten’s office where I write, and type up, the first part of his banquet-compering utterances this Budget evening.
I then realise I have put it inadvertently on the blog, and panic. It needs to be taken down eftsoons lest some good jokes leak betimes to the Van Onselen Insurgency and hit the airwaves before they are historically uttered.
Happily my wife is at home and within three minutes of publication is able to preserve, erase, and send it back to me.
Shorten emerges with a pleased, flushed, smiling Oakeshott whose firm handshake near disables me. I call him, Oakeshott, ‘a great speechwriter’ and Shorten thinks I am speaking of myself. ‘No,’ says Oakeshott, ‘he’s talking about you.’ Shorten enumerates my failings with increasing bitterness, or irony perhaps, until they reach the lift and the moment passes.
Shorten returns and I convince him — I think — that Abbott’s Motherhood Money Machine is rortable. ‘Any man can employ his wife on any wage as his Social Secretary,’ I plead. ‘The money need never leave the house.’
‘But .. to what end?’ he asks, in the baffled tones of Dr Watson.
‘The seventy-five thousand dollars,’ I reply; and his eyes glint.
I have a keen ear for voices (I once picked a black American to Cleveland, Ohio) and have noted, this day, that Shorten’s chief speechwriter Tom Cameron has the same voice as Joe Hockey and Shorten the same voice as Wayne Swan. This, on top of Arthur Sinodinis sounding exactly like Richo, Clive James sounding exactly like Errol Flynn and Dennis Waterman like Tony Llewellyn-Jones, makes me wonder if voices come with genetic trappings and lead us into the same professions, like ABC newsreaders.
I must look into this further.
Abbott mourns Margaret Thatcher in a speech to the House. ‘She changed the future, and she changed the past,’ he says; which is one way of saying her admirers printed the legend. These admirers did not include any men or women who served in her Ministry; or any of the thirty million Britishers and North Irish whose lives she ruined, and the thirty thousand, probably, she drove to suicide, like Bobby Sands.
I spent four days with her and found her barking mad; as did Francis Pym, her Minister for Defence, who let slip that she was barking mad in the days before the Falklands engagement and implied as much, when sitting beside her in a press conference I was at, for which she promptly sacked him.
It is hard to see what good she did. She effectively trashed the North and Scotland and Wales and enriched the corporate hoodlums of the South, and made houses unaffordable anywhere. The money that poured from North Sea Oil was squandered on the unemployed benefits of sacked miners; decent, harmless men who need not have been sacked. The collieries were still making money, and might have piled up in those years coal that could be selling to China now.
She is a remarkable case of someone with no achievements and no particular philosophy, only attitudes, sharply expressed. Get on your bike. The lady’s not for turning.
And gender of course. She had a useful gender. And because of it, none dared ever speak ill of her; not even today.
I write the rest of Shorten’s many brief speeches (introducing Gillard, intriducing Swanny, thanking the sponsors, acclaiming the band) at Aussie’s, and am there approached by Craig Thomson’s assistant David xxx, and asked to perform at a benefit. I say I will, pledge a thousand dollars and ask if Labor has a Dobell candidate yet. He says no, but he isn’t confident how long they will wait for Craig’s difficulties to be sorted.
If they dump him, he will stand, probably, as a Labor Independent.
Pyne in Question Time accused Bradbury, justly perhaps, of a kind of insider trading. Word leaks out that Swan will abolish the Baby Bonus. As always, reality speeds up and pixillates.
I talk with some ACT Young Labor people for an hour in Aussie’s.They ask me who is Labor’s future and I say ‘Clare’. But it turns out they mean September not 2020: could Carr be drafted? No, I say, not to be in Opposition till he’s 68, having been in Opposition from when he was 40 till he was 47. He’s done Opposition and he hates it. They predict Shorten as Opposition Leader till, oh, 2015, then Clare.
They’re sure we’re going to lose in September. I tell them no we’re not. Katter’s preferences have us on 48 already and a million Australians are Undecided. We need only 300,000 of them and we win.
They invite me to an ACT function and we get lost seeking it. In the corridor we encounter McTernan, looking more like Estragon than ever, and he says he’ll ‘catch up’ with me tomorrow at ‘your office’, meaning Aussie’s.
We go down many corridors seeking the Caucus Room which seems to have moved north since I was last in it, watching Gillard’s first speech as Prime Minister and, it was reported, hissing her. We find it, and are rapidly told in the melee inside that Craig Thomson has lost his Labor preselection.
Dastyari, the word is, has ‘dumped him’.
I drink beer and eat cheese at an excellent, crowded occasion, with Kate Lundy, Gai Brodtmann, Andrew Leigh, Mike Kelly and the candidate for Hume makiking good brief speeches, Kelly’s the best.
I explain to the young people how he accompanied in an over-heated helicopter at great risk to himself, the lately hanged body of Saddam Hussein to Tikrit, his tribal fiefdom, and handed it over to his fanatical mourners and did not die; how he persuaded Saddam to stand trial; how he administrated the rouged and bloated corpses of Uday and Qusay into a sort of press conference that proved it was them indeed; how he was forbidden to shoot Moqtadr al-Sadr when he had him in his cross-hairs; and so on; and how he was consequently, gratefully made by Gillard Minister for Cheese.
The candidate for Hume thinks broadband will help him get the eight percent swing he needs to win.This year. In Hume.
We watch the tired, husky Swanny deliver a great speech. The Liberals laugh through it till Swanny says, ‘As a cancer survivor myself’, which makes them look like cruel clowns. How dare they laugh? At a nation in trauma, and a good man trying to fix things?
Fuck the lot of them.
A man in the corridor, an MP, I think, Perrett was it, says Shorten’s speech was ‘very, very fine’. In his office I am given beer and asked to improve some lines they are giving to local candidates.
How, I wonder, does one say, convincingly,‘Sorry about promising a surplus’? It needs to be a very, very good line.
‘If you can’t trust Treasury, who can you trust? Singo?’
At the Lanterne in Campbell with Viv, Gillard’s melancholy speechwriter Carl Green, the head of Hawker Britton Justin di Lollo, whom I worked with first in Beazley’s office in 1995, and Patrick Muhlen-Schulte, a cluey, witty Carr staffer now in the ‘private sector’, gay, impressive, dismissive, unageing.
Justin believes it’s winnable but the others are resolutely, doggedly gloomy. Why not fight? I ask. Why give it away?
After the others have gone Justin and I reminisce about Beazley, our great lost leader, and how Faulkner’s vote, and Melham’s, and David fucking Cox’s and, yes, Robert McClelland’s, put in fucking Latham instead. And we wonder why.
Kim would be in his ninth year as Prime Minister now, and just about to hand over to Shorten. Or Combet. Or Plibersek.
We curse for a while, and then, in separate taxis, go home.