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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.
By Annie Hackette

TUESDAY 11/05/10

Morning

Swan in. Says someone tried to hack into budget speech and add “frills”. Rudd's Press Secretary (RPS) subtly closed laptop. Maintained shocked expression very well.

RPS great actor.

Evening

Swan delivered budget. “Here here” rehearsal was well worth it.

Watched Swan on 7:30 Report in office. Many rounds of applause. Kerry asked Swan about indigenous affairs. Everyone quiet and looking at floor.

Budget After-Party

Rudd gave speech. Thanked Swan for great effort on big surplus in 2013 Federal budget. Swan thanks Rudd, but said we should not sit on laurels pre-emptively, has already begun work on 2016 budget.

WEDNESDAY 12/05/10

Morning

RPS proposed PM go on 7:30 Report. PM said he could not go to “7:30 report land” because he had lined up a phone interview with Cooma-Monaro Express for the same time. PM angry at mainstream media - would rather talk to real Australians.


RPS politely noted that the 5 million or so people who read the nationally syndicated press and watch ABC are not ‘imaginary’. RPS also noted that the 6 people who read the Cooma-Monaro Express wouldn’t vote for PM anyway. RPS said PM could pave main street of Cooma with gold and build beer fountain and people there would still think his name was Krudd.

PM asked for cost estimate of beer fountain.

Evening – 7:00pm

RPS told PM to make sure he acts "natural" on TV. Said he should pretend Kerry O’Brien is real person and not a “massive mate”.

I accompanied the PM to the ABC studio. PM reading the Glen-Rowan Gazette - is concerned at implications of local Post Office moving streets. Wonders if “we have policy options on Post Office issue”.

One Hour Later

Interview did not go well. PM used line about “7:30 Report land” to suggest O’Brien was out of touch. PM said 7:30 Report viewers are out of touch with fair-dinkum Australians anyway.

One Minute Later

RPS called. Said PM needed to watch use of word “mate”. Said there is a risk that people will work out “mate” doesn’t mean mate. While O’Brien is a “total mate”, if people work out that PM called O’Brien a “mate”, female voters will think PM is a “mate”.

10 Minutes Later

Anthony Albanese, Lindsay Tanner and Tania Plibersek in office waiting for PM. Tanner had run to Parliament from function at National Museum. Albanese in dressing gown. They're all extremely unhappy about the interview.

Tanner did most of the talking, Plibersek did most of the conciliation and Albanese did most of the swearing.
  • Albanese told PM he had no idea where the borders of "7:30 Report land" began and ended but that he’s pretty sure his “entire fucking electorate is right in the middle.”
  • Plibersek suggested to the PM that his inflammatory language and dismissive attitude was risking their seats and he had to ask himself: could he afford to replace Ministers?
  • Albanese said that most of the back bench consists of “second-rate ball sacs”, and that a majority of the backbench would struggle to tie shoelaces if their seats depended on it.
  • Tanner asked PM who’ll look after Swan if Tanner loses seat. Tanner understood how annoying latte left can be but says, unless government is willing to support any of their agenda, we should probably avoid insulting them directly.
  • Albanese said it would just be great if in interviews, PM could stop being such a “total mate”.
PM thanked Ministers for robust discussion.

PM said he knew he should have done the interview with the Cooma-Monaro Express.

THURSDAY 13/05/10

Morning

Keating called. Infuriated that none of his suggestions were included in budget. Keating raised 7:30 Report interview, asked if PM is losing it. Said if PM needs help on how to lose it properly, Keating happy to help train him.

Keating thought it is a bad idea for the PM to talk about staying up all night at international conferences. Said it doesn’t demonstrate good grasp of policy. Pointed out that Churchill stayed up all night planning Gallipoli invasion and “we all know how that turned out.”

Love Keating. Wish he would run again.

Midday

Disaster! Email from Jean accidentally leaked to media. Email discussed border-protection measures government was taking. RPS came out and told Jean to fire herself because he’s “too busy working on the PM’s facial expressions for tonight’s budget reply”. Jean pointed out that firing her would look like a backflip. Jean asked RPS if he thought government could afford anymore backflips. RPS repeatedly banged head on table but agreed with Jean.

RPS also tired of boat people and it’s worth quoting him:

“Do we need to make it any clearer? I get that the Taliban are the biggest "mates" this side of North Korea, and the American army isn’t much better, but don’t they get it? Can’t they stay oppressed until after the election? My compassion levels will be off the charts around Christmas, but the only arrivals I want to welcome to Australia in the next six months are record-breaking 16 year olds.”

Think RPS has heart in right place.

Evening

RPS makes PM wear ear piece for budget reply so he can provide PM with real-time directions about facial expressions.

FRIDAY 14/05/10

Morning

RPS relieved. PM not aware of leak. Apparently, not covered in Cooma-Monaro Express.
MONDAY 10/05/10

Morning

Hear scream from secretary. Man wearing a motorcycle helmet in office. Turns out was Cory Bernardi.

Party Room Meeting

Mood is jubilant. Everyone happy with polls.

Bernardi arrives in motorcycle helmet. Tells us he is determined to prove point about security issues and importance of identity. Point out to Bernardi that there is only one man in Parliament House wearing a motor cycle helmet.

Bernardi gives speech on burqa ban. Hard to make out from underneath helmet.

Bronwyn Bishop and Mirabella applaud.

Abbott says burqa ban is bad policy. However, talking about burqa ban great policy. Congratulates Bernardi.

On way out Joyce talks to Robb – says if he needs to talk, especially about finance, Joyce there for him.

Midday

Abbott in. Wearing jujitsu outfit and swimming cap. Ask Abbott about outfit. Abbott explains he’s just finished jujitsu, now off for swim.

Abbott says he’s now thinking about providing stay-at-home mums with $10,000 cash payments. Apparently has been talking to my wife again – admires her “common sense” approach to policy. Asks me to put together some figures. Abbott doesn’t want to bother Hockey with figures yet. Says policy is our little secret.

Afternoon

Joyce in. Concerned about Australia’s economic situation. Has done maths, thinks Australia is 2-4 weeks away from Greece-style riots.

Joyce notices I’m doing taxes, offers to help me with them. Thank Joyce - tell him I don’t want to distract him from his work. Joyce tells me not to worry. Says he’ll take a look. Bugger.

Evening

Abbott returns. No need to worry about figures. Mirabella already done them.

TUESDAY 11/05/10

Morning

Not looking forward to meeting. Know that there will be vote on giving mums cash. On one hand, reluctant to vote against policy (wife’s idea). On other hand, policy is extremely bad idea.

Shadow Cabinet meeting

Abbott proposes policy. Says that based on figures that Mirabella crunched, policy can be paid for by “modest levy” on renewable energy industry.

Hunt flinches.

Robb says no way that kind of money can be found. Hockey agrees.

Joyce says if he were in Finance Portfolio, he could find the money. Awkward silence.

Joyce proposes end to meeting with prayer of thanks for Abbott. Extremely awkward silence.

Evening – Post Budget

Had nap during budget - so glad I am a Senator! Was woken up by Tuckey charging into office to declare that “budget surplus written in blood of miners”.

WEDNESDAY 12/05/10

Morning

Call from Joyce at 5:15am. Says it is urgent.

Meet Joyce at office. Joyce tells me I am bankrupt. Express surprise. Joyce shows me figures. I have $140,000 left on mortgage and only earn $125,000 per year. No way I have enough to pay it back this year. Joyce said deep cuts in expenditure needed. Joyce says family may riot, but I must institute austerity measures. Thank Joyce for revelation.

Go to sleep on desk.

Midday

Woken up by Bernardi, still wearing motorcycle helmet. Ask Bernardi to remove helmet. Bernardi asks if I find helmet confronting. Tell Bernardi he looks strange and I can’t clearly hear what he’s saying. Bernardi says he loves Australia too much to remove helmet.

Bernard has found middle-ground between burqa ban and talking about burqa ban. Burqa Buy-Back (BBB). Government will compulsorily acquire all burqas. As compensation, will provide free English lessons and cosmetic make-overs, or as Bernardi calls them “feminisation packages”.

Tell Bernardi as Shadow Minister for Values I shall consider policy. Bernardi leaves.

Call wife. Wife promises to run policy past book club.

Afternoon

Hockey in. Looking for cuts. Still ten billion short of 2013 surplus. Ask Hockey why he is rushing to bring budget into surplus in 2013. Hockey says he’s feeling peer pressure from Swan.

Hockey asks if I have any policies I can cut. Tell Hockey I have no policies, but promise if I think of any policies I will be sure to cut them. Hockey grateful.

Evening

Wife calls. Book club unanimous. Book club anti buy-back – policy discriminates against white women. Why don’t they get hand-out? Will also encourage some women to wear burqa just to get free make-over.

Alternative policy: all women who do not wear burqa to get tax rebate for make-overs. Call it “No Burqa Bonus”

Hang up. Must stop wife speaking to Abbott. Must honour promise to Hockey to cut policy.

THURSDAY 13/05/10

Morning

Abbott jogging up and down corridor to get rid of excess energy, while practising speech. Odd.

Bernardi in, still wearing helmet. Bernardi asks if I’m confronted yet. Says he’s going to try and convince Abbott to slip buyback into reply speech.

Must act now.

15 Minutes later

Call Joyce. Joyce asks if I have cut expenditure yet. Tell Joyce no. Joyce asks if bank has repossessed house. Tell Joyce need his help. Joyce promises to come immediately.

Call Bernardi. Tell him I want to help get Burqa Buy-Back implemented. Bernardi yells he cannot hear me as he cannot hold phone against head. Asks me to message his mobile so his secretary can read message to him.

Bernardi and Joyce both arrive. Tell Joyce we need him to do figures on BBB to ensure policy is deficit neutral. Say this sadly means it cannot be mentioned in reply, but better in long run. Both agree. Hopefully will keep both busy until June.

Afternoon

Call Abbott's Press Secretary (APS). Explain "No Burqa Bonus". APS horrified. Promises to delete wife’s number from Abbott’s phone.

Call wife. Tell wife must cancel current mobile phone account as part of austerity measures. Tell wife “accountant” gave clear advice we should focus on reducing debt. Wife asks accountant's name. Lie to wife ... for good of party.

Evening – Post Reply Drinks

Abbott delivered sterling reply! Still $10 billion short. Abbott promised that Hockey would deliver more cuts next week.

Hockey and Robb in corner with calculators frantically scribbling. Joyce bringing them water. Hockey says first he heard of promise was in reply.

Tuckey arguing with Bernardi. Accuses Bernardi of being member of bikie gang. Bernardi can’t hear Tuckey but nodding vigorously. Tuckey calls security. Bernardi refuses to remove helmet. Bernardi removed from building.

Proud to be member of Liberal Party.
By Annie Hackette

MONDAY 03/05/10

Busy day.

Spent most of day with PM and RPS formulating response to Catherine Deveny tweets. This is what I wrote: “Well look, I’m all for having a having a laugh. Having a laugh is a great part of being Australian. But, you know something? Bindi Irwin is a brave Australian child, an Australian child who lost her father. And all I have to say to Catherine Deveny is there’s nothing funny about that, mate.”

TUESDAY 04/05/10

5:00am

Put together media summary – bad news. PM behind in polls 49 – 51.

5:30am

RPS arrived. I showed him the poll. RPS went pale. Had me call all staff in for immediate crisis meeting.

6:00am Crisis Meeting

RPS told us all not to panic. Has three points for dealing with media:

·       Whatever you do, do not mention the poll.

·       If media asks, PM has not read the poll because he is too busy making tough decisions on behalf of working families.
·       PM didn’t break promises, Senate broke PM’s promises.

Economics Adviser (EA) asks for examples of tough decisions. RPS says an example of tough decision is whether RPS should punch EA in the face, or kick him in the groin. EA asks if that is what we should tell media. RPS throws mug – puts hole in the wall. Reiterates that nobody should panic.

8:00am

PM came in, dishevelled and glum. Whole office eerily silent as PM walks past.

9:30am

RPS asks me to see how PM is. Says being new, I am the only person the PM cannot yell at for bad poll. Probably.

Entered PM’s office. PM eating straight from tub of chocolate ice-cream, while reading newspoll from The Australian. Tells me he has found at least 14 flaws with Denis Shanahan’s analysis of poll. Is convinced Shanahan has rigged poll. PM says it’s not his fault CPRS got dumped – doesn’t Shanahan know how the Senate works?

10:00am

Best moment ever – Paul Keating called – I answered. OMG this is why I work for PM. Told me “He’d read the Henry report and knows what to do”. Put him through to PM. PM did not answer. Decided to put him through to EA instead.

Lunchtime

RPS tells me PM is going to Perth to take fight to mining execs. Need to find miners for PM to negotiate with. Ask what PM will negotiate with miners about? RPS replied:

“I don’t give a F*&#. All I want is pictures of the PM in a hard-hat telling the likes of Clive Palmer that the only choice they have is whether they get taxed from the front or behind.”

5:00pm

EA gets off phone with Keating, has long list of suggestions/demands from Keating.

WEDNESDAY 05/05/10

Morning

On tarmac with Martin Ferguson waiting for PM at 5:30am – PM is late. PM’s wife called – is very worried about him. PM is still asleep. Has not slept in this late since wedding night.

Flight

PM changed breakfast order five times. Seemed he was testing whether flight attendants could prepare different meals. Eventually decided not to have breakfast at all. Blamed Senate for ruining his appetite.

Flight attendants smile a lot, seem genuinely terrified of PM. PM also smiles a lot – seems genuinely terrified of swearing at flight attendants.

Lunchtime

Arrive in Perth for meeting with miners. Not many miners to meet with – most have gone to Canberra to meet Abbott.

Meeting does not go well. PM says he wants to talk about implementation of super-profit tax. Miners say they are against tax. PM says he wants to work with industry to develop tax. Miners say they will leave Australia if PM passes tax. I ask miners where they will go.  Miners very vague on alternative locations. PM very happy with my question. PM says tax is going through whether miners like it or not. Miners respond by asking PM if he knows how Senate works. PM asks miners “whether they want tax jammed or stuffed up their arses”.

Afternoon

Call RPS. Tell him negotiations were unsuccessful. RPS does not care how negotiations with miners are going – happy with pictures of PM in hardhat – wants pictures of PM in mine. Told him (a) PM’s wife would kill RPS (b) Mining executives extremely reluctant to help PM with media shot. RPS says to tell miners if they remain uncooperative we’ll ‘Stern Hu’ them. Also instructs me to swear more.

Try line on executives. Executives laugh but remain uncooperative.

Evening

Report back to RPS. Tell RPS about executives response. RPS asks if I swore. Admit to RPS that I didn’t. RPS swears.

THURSDAY 06/05/10

Morning - Flight

Talk to PM whole flight home. Working up courage to tell him my name is Annie not Jean.

Midday

Arrive back in office. EA on phone with Keating, again. Garrett fixing hole in wall. RPS loudly boasting that he had spent morning telling journalists what a bunch of F*&# tins they are.

Ask RPS what a F&%# tin is? RPS tells me to read The Australian.

RPS gets me and Jean to start sending Deveny supportive anonymous messages on twitter in the hope she’ll continue spirited defence of tweets well into next media cycle.

Afternoon

Gillard’s Press Secretary (GPS) in. NAPLAN tests are finally going ahead. GPS says Gillard successfully averted largest teachers strike in history through sheer charisma. GPS gets misty look in eyes while describing Gillard as amazing.

RPS thanks GPS for update. Suggests that a phone call would have been fine. Reminds GPS that “it is, after all, just a website.”

GPS asks if miners have fallen into line, says Gillard happy to help. RPS thanks GPS for kind offer, but miners are well in hand, so Gillard can focus on building million dollar school halls. GPS leaves.

Friday 07/05/10

Morning

No call from Keating today. EA relieved.

Lunchtime

Got to sit in on a meeting between Swan and PM. Getting lots of responsibility since bad poll. PM says because I’m new I am closest we have in office to member of public. Everyone else too “tainted”.

Swan up-beat about “no frills” budget. PM keen to investigate ways to add surprise last-minute frills. Swan says no need for frills, also no money for frills.

Swan tells PM not to worry about poll, it’s just an outlier.

Monday 10/05/10

Morning

Second bad poll !?! PM met with Swan again.

PM extremely pro-frill. Suggests we can give cash hand-outs to battlers, working families, and pensioners.

Swan tells PM not to panic. PM repeatedly slams table to emphasise he is not panicking. Swan tells PM outliers often come in pairs.

PM asks Swan when was the last time he heard of someone being struck by lightning twice. Swan had seen a documentary on park ranger who had been struck seven times. Begins in-depth description of documentary.

PM interrupts, accepts no frills in budget.

Lunchtime

GPS in. Asks RPS if he needs any help managing poll?

RPS thanks GPS for offer of help but says things fine.

GPS leaves, her and Gillard are having lunch with Keating!

RPS sends Jean to spy on lunch.

Wish I could have gone but I’m on twitter duty.

Afternoon

Meet with PM and RPS after caucus meeting. PM described himself as “s*#$ed off”. Starts smoking a cigarette (did not know PM smoked)!  PM says the backbenchers were extremely irate at CPRS being delayed.

Ask PM what he wants his tweet to be for that hour. PM says, and I quote: “Tweet this: Just spent sixty long minutes explaining to back-benchers/special needs children how the Senate works.”

RPS angry at PM, orders me to change password to the twitter account. Tells PM that he will not have PM “Doing a Deveny.”



By Annie Hackette


MONDAY 26/04/10

6:30am

Just got bad news. Aunty Susan was rushed to Nepean Hospital in Penrith with a broken hip. Wish I could take time off to see her but I took a lunch break on Sunday and I'm worried about being seen as a slacker.

7:00am

Arrive for afternoon meeting. Rudd's Press Secretary (RPS) outlines election strategy. Abbott is looking like the largest target in election history. PM has decided to use nuclear option - specifically on own policies.

Plan for week: PM will dump policies in hospitals. Gillard will crush education union for sake of MySchool website.

Lunchtime

Conroy burst into the office demanding "an audience" with the PM. RPS made me memorise acronym for such situations: KCTFA (Keep Conroy The F--- Away). RPS believes Conroy has been "affected" by all the weird videos he's watched researching the internet filter.

Conroy told me internet filter ready to go. Now just working on the name, tossing up between three: the Child Pornography Regulation Scheme, IWeb 2.0, or Webchoices. Thank Conroy for suggestions and promise to pass them on to RPS.

Afternoon

Parliament IT support called. Crikey have complained about abusive comments on their website re the internet filter, traced to Parliament house. RPS instructed me to get Netnanny installed on culprit’s computer.

Tell RPS about Aunty Susan in Nepean Hospital. RPS very sympathetic and promises to organise for PM to visit her tomorrow. Thank RPS, he really isn't as bad as he first seemed!

TUESDAY 27/04/10

Morning

RPS is as bad as he seems! PM visiting Aunt Susan with Jean, and left me behind! RPS concerned that my relationship with Aunt Susan might throw me off my game: "Staff cannot be emotionally involved with constituents".

PM to dump Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in Penrith. RPS left us the following notes for if the media called:
  • PM has nothing to defend;
  • there has been no change in policy;
  • blame the change in policy on:
  • The Greens (unrealistic hippies);
  • Abbott (emphasise virginity comments and speedos);
  • Turnbull (if he was better people person great barrier reef would be saved)
    One Hour Later

    I came out of meeting to find Conroy using my computer. Says all of the computers in his office have been really slow.

    Garrett in, surprised to see Conroy in PM's office. Conroy told Garrett that only Ministers who deliver groundbreaking legislation, like say internet filter, get to hang out in the PM's office. Told Garrett that while sky was limit for him, roof was limit for Garrett, mainly because roof is on fire. Garrett replied that he'd been exonerated. Conroy pointed out that "Being exonerated is not an achievement". RPS then entered and told Garrett and Conroy to "F*&# off".

    It was good to get my computer back. Conroy forgot to log himself out. Note to self: keep an eye out for posts on Crikey by Whitlamesque007.

    Evening

    PM back in office. Nepean Hospital was disaster– one of the patients was saying extremely racist things about Indian doctors. As he walked away PM called her Demented Bigoted Cow. Luckily only SBS picked it up, so nobody will ever know.

    WEDNESDAY 28/04/10

    Morning

    Summarised news headlines on climate change for PM. Attempted to try and summarise without using words “backflip”, “gutless”, or “coward”. Summary very short.

    I showed my summary to RPS  - article in The Australian suggesting government is imploding and out-of-control sent RPS into rage. RPS screamed that "we are not out of control, this is a perfectly controlled implosion!!!”

    Midday

    Conroy charges into office. Confronts RPS. Demands to speak to PM. Conroy says PM has abandoned nation’s children, and failed in moral challenge of generation. RPS swears a lot at Conroy! I can’t repeat most of it but the gist was: Conroy should not waste a limited resource like his intellect on worrying about climate change, but should focus on kiddy porn. Conroy says not talking about climate change, talking about CPRS: Child Pornography Reduction Scheme. RPS asks whether Conroy has intellectual disability, before clarifying that CPRS is Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

    Conroy slaps forehead in shock. Says proliferation of acronyms really confusing, maybe someone should look into it. RPS tells Conroy to GTFO (this means Get The F*$% Out – he says it to us all the time). Conroy does not understand.

    Afternoon

    Took notes during meeting between RPS, PM, Gillard, and Swan on internet filter. Huge privilege. Amazed at how frank the language is!

    PRO:
    • Win Christ-tard vote
    • Lots of weird s*$% on internet according to Conroy
    • Cheap, and no risk of killing people in implementation
    CON:
    • With Abbott, Christ-tard vote sown up by Liberals
    • Will increase Conroy’s exposure to Australian people
    • Will not work
    Resolve to put on backburner. Fail to resolve who will tell Conroy.

    THURSDAY 29/04/10 

    Morning

    Gillard’s Chief of Staff visited. Asks media unit staffers and secretaries if we would be interested in working with children? Says office is developing contingency plan for NAPLAN tests.

    Gillard’s Chief of Staff says there is a distinct lack of experience in strike breaking in Gillard’s office. Has read story of Howard on waterfront, which was instructive, but uncertain how effectively men in balaclavas would translate into class rooms.

    Lunchtime

    Conroy comes into office in tears, having read reports about filter being dropped.

    PM comes out to deal with Conroy. Conroy asks PM to think of the children. PM nods reassuringly, puts his hand on Stephen’s shoulder and says: “Stephen I’m always thinking of you and the other Ministers”.

    PM assures Conroy that the internet filter is still one of his top priorities. Conroy thankful and leaves.

    RPS calls PM gutless.

    FRIDAY 30/04/10

    Lunchtime

    End of a long week.

    RPS gave us stirring speech. Says next week would be better. CPRS will be ancient history, and all we will have to do is defend tax on mining companies.

    Before end of speech Parliamentary IT called. Said PM’s website had been victim of an extremely poor hacking attempt traced to Parliament House ISP. RPS says two goals for rest of year:

    • Win election
    • Do a Garrett on Conroy