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Comedians Toby Halligan and Mathew Kenneally reveal the internal workings of Federal Parliament with their exclusive access to diary entries from within the halls of power.
MONDAY 26 MAY 2014


Back in Canberra for post-budget sitting week – morale is very low. We are really struggling to sell budget. I have not been able to sell it to my own mother. She is very concerned about co-payment, particularly for seriously ill cousin Billy.


Party room meeting: Abbott emphasises discipline and staying on message.

Bernardi yells “Why does the ABC still exist”. Abbott thanks Bernardi for excellent example of what not to do.

Hockey demands we all be across the detail.

Abbott approaches me, wants me to come to budget emergency strategy meeting in Parliamentary basement.


Arrive at meeting room. As I enter am hit by wave of smoke. Cormann and Hockey are puffing away on cigars. Abbott is there wearing oxygen mask. Cormann tells me to close the door or I’ll set off the sprinklers.

Hockey explains they cannot be seen smoking Cubans outside. Abbott explains he cannot afford to inhale smoke. Will not allow being PM to compromise his cycling times.

Hockey and Abbott want me to lead negotiations with Senate. Say I have two advantages: (a) Cross-bench Senators do not hate me; (b) Palmer does not know who I am.


As I leave I set off the fire-alarm. Cormann and Hockey leg it. I’m left to take responsibility for all the Cubans. Security Guard’s eyes widen when I explain I had smoked 28 Cubans. Says he hasn’t seen someone this hardcore since Hawkie.


Open budget papers; study time.


Mum calls; asks if I have an answer for cousin Billy.


Finish studying. Don’t want to disappoint Hockey.



Call Hockey, give details of Cousin Billy’s chronic illnesses. Hockey assures me once cousin Billy is on a healthcare plan he will be fine.


Call Mum, assure her cousin Billy has nothing to worry about.


Abbott Press Secretary (APS) suggests I start with Motoring Enthusiast/Palmer United’s Ricky Muir.


Call Ricky. Strange conversation. He answered as Ricky, then, when I said I was calling on behalf of government, he claimed he was in fact Mickey Muir, Ricky’ cousin. Then he said Ricky was working at the sawmill. When I asked why, Mickey got irate and told me “Look mate, I’ve got a family to feed, and so does Mickey - we’ve both got families to feed and only one job between us” before hanging up.

Told APS Ricky Muir could not speak because of work. APS smiled, looking forward to leaking to media!


Call Sawmill. Sawmill bloke laughs, says Ricky is not rostered on. His father Micky called in earlier today to say he was sick.


Mum calls. Has been working on figures with Knitting Circle. Knitting Circle is unanimous - Treasurer’s information was inaccurate. They have called the AMA to confirm. The Knitting Circle would like clarification from Hockey or may be forced to put out a press release.


Call Hockey’s office. Explain Knitting Circle’s findings. Hockey’s Chief of Staff laughs, says he’s pretty sure Treasury is across something so important but he’ll check.


Hockey’s Chief of Staff calls. Has identified a gaping hole in policy. Needs to know cousin Billy’s age, income, relationship status, his assets, whether he is the beneficiary of any private trusts, and Medicare Number.


Hockey calls back. They are going to need faxed copy of Medicare card.


Receive four page memorandum from Hockey’s Chief of Staff. Includes bar graph. He is happy to take cousin Billy’s call.

Executive summary: “the visits are free for any conditions directly or partially related to your chronic health conditions as detailed in your healthcare plan. For conditions unrelated to your chronic conditions they will not be exempt. For further clarification please seek legal advice”


E-mail memo to APS. APS shares my concerns about lack of clarity. APS says “this is our birthday cake moment.” Agree with APS but say this is worse. You can live without birthday cake, not Doctor.



APS has sent out strongly worded e-mail prohibiting any MPs from answering any questions regarding co-payment. APS has told MPs “We need to give voters time to digest policy before we start explaining it”.


Mum calls, wants answers. Explain to mum that due to media’s misinformation campaign I am not allowed to discuss policy. Mum explains the only reason media has been spreading misinformation is because they have been quoting the Treasurer.


Try to call Muir again. Muir’s phone re-directs to Palmer. Ask Palmer if I can arrange meeting.

Palmer says he cannot meet until we apologise to Ricky Muir for leaking that
he told the PM he was at work. Palmer explains Muir had told sawmill he was meeting
with PM. Palmer says all negotiations off until apology. Informs me he already raised his concerns with Malcolm Turnbull at dinner that night.

Point out that Turnbull is part of Abbott government. Palmer laughs and says “No he’s not!”


Meet with Greens. Sarah Hanson-Young in attendance unexpectedly. Hate it when that happens. SMS staffer to send earplugs.

Sarah Hansen-Young is wearing a “Fuck Tony Abbott” T-shirt. Ask her whether that’s productive. Hansen-Young asks me whether torturing refugees on Manus Island is productive.

Explain that I am not here to discuss migration policy, but budget proposals the Greens are willing to support.

Greens will support fuel excise. Will not support anything else until Coalition promises to keep carbon tax.

[Long pause]

Milne and Bandt apologise. Hanson-Young just follows them around. They’ll support fuel excise, and while they have nothing against me personally, pretty sure that’s it.


Mum calls. Cousin Billy is very concerned that his university debt will start incurring interest retrospectively. Explain to Mum that is absurd. Mum suggests I check website.


Website does appear to say something that is different to policy.

Call Pyne, Pyne says website is wrong. Ask Pyne if cousin Billy will pay interest. Pyne says he will need to know where cousin Billy studied, when he graduated, his current address, and then be given a week to calculate answer.

Decide to order Billy a cake to make up for all the fuss. Call Mum. Reminds me that Billy’s chronic condition is diabetes. Really need to keep across the detail.

Mathew Kenneally and Toby Halligan are performing this Saturday night at the Melbourne Town Hall!

Check it out:



Wake up. Have great motivational chat with wife. Am determined to focus on positive. I WILL have policy discussion with media.


Press conference. Declare from outset that I am not interested in speaking about leadership in any way shape or form, I’m talking policy.

Fairfax journo says fine. Asks me if Gonski can go ahead with only two states.


Asks how the surplus is going?

Ignore question.

Asks me how we are going to stop the boats?

Declare that I support PM and media needs to stop focusing on the leadership.

Storm off.


Fitzgibbon in – hands me envelope. It’s an invitation to the “Future of Australia”. Invitation is written on stained napkin.

Also inside, petition to spill leadership. Throw it to one side of room. Run out of room, should not even be in the same room as this. Realise Fitzgibbon is now alone in my office. Run back in room.

Fitzgibbon says Kevin’s got the numbers. We’ve got a meeting in half an hour – come hang out – no pressure, no expectations.


At Camp Rudd. Do not know half of these people. Apparently they are all backbenchers; really should turn around in question time more often.


Now I know why I never speak to backbenchers. Every conversation starts with “So, what’s your margin?”

Ask Fitzgibbon where Rudd is?

Fitzgibbon says Rudd is busy recording a video message in Mandarin to a conference in China on macro-economic policy on South-East Asia. Also has a phone hook-up with Mal Meninga to discuss Queensland’s tactics before Origin II.


Bob Katter is here.


Katter pulls out guitar, bursts into own version of Slim Dusty’s “I’d love to have a beer with Kevin”.



Shorten in.

Tell Shorten he looks terrible.

Shorten says he feels terrible.

Ask if it’s because he’s still struggling to make a decision.

Shorten says it’s because he has made decision.


Whoaa, it is totally on. Gillard calling spill for 7PM? Typical Victorian: State of Origin ruined.


Discuss issue with wife. Wife suggests I stay loyal to Gillard. Explain that means electoral destruction.

Wife unwilling to explain to daughter why I brought down first female Prime Minister, if I want to that’s FINE.


Vote in just one hour. Have got to make call. Walking packs will be gathering. Don’t want to walk alone.


Shorten doing presser. Praising Gillard as always!


Shorten just backed Rudd. Holy crap.


Meeting starts. Gillard speech okay, still not sure who to back.


Rudd finishes speaking, Counted over 50 cliches in his speech. Ended saying we need to “cook with gas”. That’s it: I’m backing Gillard.


Rudd has won. Yes! Time for Origin.


No… time for Gillard farewell speech.


Richo texts. Wants to know who has won. Text Richo will trade him details for regular Origin scores.


Text from Richo. Richo won’t be blackmailed. Richo will decide if my information is worth Origin scores or not. Text Richo that Rudd is PM.


Richo texts “I knew that at 7:30PM. To be fair I will give you the Origin score at 7:30PM – Nil – Nil.”


S#!t we have to vote on the deputy leadership, and the leader of the Senate, and the deputy leader of the Senate.


Phew, Labor factions have fixed up all positions. Quick vote. Definitely have a place in Labor party, now for the second half of origin!


Gathering in Gillard office with her camp; good times. Beers, conversation, not one discussion of polls! Origin on in background – pity about the Blues.

Cavalcade of Ministers are resigning. Don’t think I will – happy to be kicked out by people.


Head to office.

Rudd is waiting. Wearing Maroons jersey. “Freshly signed by entire victorious Origin II team” he tells me. How is this even possible!? The man truly is a machine.

Rudd thanks me for supporting Gillard; was good she had someone.

Has knocked up some notes on education policy. Wants to know what I think.

Rudd is still here. We are discussing the lessons of Hong Kong’s kindergarten system.

Rudd feels we’ve had a great chat, we’re really cooking with gas, but now, he’s gotta zip.

Wish the election was tomorrow!

Originally published at BigPond News.
Published at BigPond News:
Published at BigPond News:

Published at BigPond News:


Wake up in Brisbane hotel.

Spent a long time deciding what tie to wear. Want to wear blue tie, but that could play into Gillard narrative.

Decide on blue suit with lilac tie.


Meet up with Abbot and Abbott Press Secretary (APS).

Both stare at tie. APS hands me blue tie. She’s carrying spares: says LNP is setting fashion agenda not Gillard.


APS looks hard at me, says we need to talk about the menu.

I have no problem with breakfast menu!

APS slides menu across the table to me.

Thank APS but I ate at hotel. Also: Quail? For breakfast?

Abbott insists I look closer.

Notice obscene and frankly unamusing joke about Gillard – shake my head at APS – if these are today’s talking points I’m OUT.

APS explains it’s from a fundraiser in Mal Brough’s electorate that I attended.

Tell APS I can’t possibly be expected to remember all the fundraisers I attend, especially given how heavily I have to drink to bear them.

APS wants to know if I saw this menu.

Look at menu again. Don’t remember. I would totally remember if anything interesting happened at a fundraiser.

APS says ultimately we don’t need to worry too much. Brough is up against Peter “Mussels in brine” Slipper. Even if Brough personally hand wrote the entire menu, would still look like raging feminist compared to Slipper.

Abbott wants me to head to restaurant – needs me to sort this out.

APS says George Brandis will be meeting me there, for legal advice.


Brough has apologised. Wonder if I should apologise. Call wife.

Wife says you do not apologise casually. Apologising pre-emptively makes you look guilty. Wife says I have awful habit of apologising whenever someone gets angry.

Apologise to wife.

Wife hangs up.


Arrive at Richards & Richards. Suggest to Brandis that we play good lawyer, bad lawyer.

Meet restaurateur. Immediately apologise for sullying his establishment.

Brandis looks furious.

Restaurateur confused. He wrote the menu as joke, never distributed it. Is willing to come clean.

Brandis demands to know if restaurateur will say that in court.

Restaurateur doesn’t understand why it’s going to court.

Brandis: ALL things can wind up in court.

Restaurateur REALLY confused.

Explain to Restaurateur that we just want a letter for the media and this will all go away.

Brandis adds: OR WE’RE GOING TO COURT.

Walk out. Brandis feels like I overplayed good lawyer role. Reckons he could totally have gotten restaurateur to pay damages.


Abbott does presser stating menu was tacky and in bad taste, just like jokes about Peta Credlin at ALP fundraiser. Brilliant!


Pyne calls. Loved Abbott presser! Has further examples of vicious slurs Labor has aimed at Coalition.


Just finished with Pyne. 47 of the 50 examples were about Pyne. Did not have heart to say I found most of the “slurs” really funny. He IS like a poodle!



Journalist calls to discuss menu-gate. Reckons it was pretty CONVENIENT menu was not distributed. Convenient like an alibi.

Agree, alibis are, by definition, convenient.

Journalist asks what I’d say to people who say there is no proof that I did not see the menu?

I’d say: “Leave me alone.”

Journo reckons Gillard is right and about menu-gate we still have questions to answer.

Laugh! Say I remember using that line against PM at tail end of AWU scandal. “Questions to answer” is line you use when you’ve run out of questions to ask.

Journo asks if I’m saying AWU was a beat up.

Say nothing.

Journo thanks me for story.


APS calls. Did I describe AWU as beat up?

Say I did not use that PARTICULAR phrase.

APS says I’m dumber than your average Queensland restaurateur.

APS calls back. I’m in clear. A talkback host managed to one up menu-gate by asking Gillard if Tim Mathieson is gay. No time to chat.


Watching Lateline at home. Wife says something profound: If a menu is drawn up in a kitchen and nobody reads it, is it worth two days of media coverage?

Originally published at BigPond News.