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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.
WEDNESDAY 28/07/10

Morning

Campaign meeting, including Hockey and Robb. Hockey struggling to balance maternity leave with company tax. Feels like he's being dragged into abyss of decimal points and fractions. Starts to tear up. Begs Abbott Press Secretary (APS) to stick to only one new policy a week.

APS cannot guarantee anything. Hockey cries. Robb gives him hug. Awkward. Robb tells Hockey to go for walk, offers to finish numbers on own so Hockey can focus on his strength - being affable.

One hour later

Business tax cut announced.

15 minutes later

Campaign Manager (CM) calls. Furious. Demands to know why we're distracting from Ruddleakgate. No more policy till CM joins campaign. Phew, was worried if we spent any more money Hockey would have nervous breakdown.

Afternoon

Gather journalists for announcement. Journos grumpy. After week of hard work and preparation, announce first campaign promise as Shadow Minister for Future Building and Values - Abbott's campaign plane will have liquor for remainder of campaign. Journos cheer. Eyes get misty. Moments like these remind me why I'm in politics. Australian correspondent hugs me, Daily Telegraph photographer promises to never photoshop picture of me.

Evening

CM wants Abbott out of news tomorrow - has arranged for him to spend day with AFL team Essendon. Wants focus on main contest - Gillard vs Leak.

THURSDAY 29/07/10

Early morning

Woken by Abbott. Says too wet to ride in Melbourne and APS ill from constant exercise. Asks me to help him with routine in hotel.

7:00am

Exhausted. Just finished doing push ups, crunches and star jumps. Left Abbott to do forward rolls on own. Have not felt pain like this since Alexander Downer was leader. Really want drink. Remind myself I'm not a journo.

1 hour later

Abbott pumped to be going to Essendon FC. Asking about AFL rules and players strengths. CM genius. First time on campaign Abbott isn't discussing policy.

15 minutes later

Holy s**t! Gillard just got tough on crime!!! APS in shock. Abbott impressed. Labor is banning 22 weapons, including foot claws, gas filled shark-darts and non-ceremonial maces. Abbott torn between panic and urge to own foot claw.

CM calls brainstorming session. Must have counter policy. Minchin suggests crack down on gangs.

Ask if Australia has gang problem.

Minchin says not important, Australia does not have gas-filled shark dart problem either. Important to pick something and crack down on it.

Abbott suggests MyCrime website to help people track local crime organisations so they can make judgements about whether to let children leave house.

APS worried will alarm community. Hockey worried about cost. Abbott demands half a billion for fighting gangs. Hockey covers ears and declares 'I'm not listening'.

General agreement that cost needs to be more than $100 million to sound good, and less than $200 million to retain economic credibility.

Suggest $179 million, weird number so no one could accuse us of making it up. Meeting agrees.

Hockey still has hands on ears - will tell him later.

This entry originally published at BigPond News as part of their Federal Election 2010 coverage.
TUESDAY 27/07/10

Morning

Send Work Experience Kid (Kid) to get me breakfast. Kid brings back fruit salad and boost juice. Tell Kid, Bob Brown is on phone and wants his breakfast back.

Lunchtime

Press conference. Media have decided that today is "deliberately barren" day.

Most questions predictable, though must admit never expected question about size of Gillard's earlobes.

Afternoon

Meet with Pollster and Gillard to discuss: "Tim Mathieson problem".

Pollster has done in-depth research on relationship issue - men generally unfussed. Men that hate Gillard won't care about wedding - will see Mathieson as "prisoner of factional bosses".

Gillard says she doesn't need focus group to make personal decisions. Pollster understands but does think that snap wedding could swing some marginal seats. Gillard tells Pollster she's not a character on Neighbours. Pollster says idea of holding wedding on Neighbours actually focus-grouped well.

Pollster is savant-like - amazing at one thing and one thing only.

Tell Gillard journalists just bored. Will pass. Gillard laments lack of media substance.

8:00pm

Gillard no longer lamenting lack of media substance.

Leak on maternity leave and pension increase is major problem. Media no longer calling Gillard feminist-warrior, now mean spirited anti-feminist.

Launch inquisition.

Ask Faulkner to call Rudd. Faulkner worried. Thinks if it is not Rudd and we accuse him, he might start leaking. Faulkner cannot see why Rudd would leak. If Gillard loses election Rudd has no chance of meeting Obama again. Faulkner urges calm. Faulkner useless.

8:15pm

Call Bill Shorten.

Shorten says that "Gillard can rely on Bill Shorten. Bill Shorten is prepared to go undercover to find leak." Shorten insists he will telephone Ministers and do his "Laurie Oakes" impersonation to entrap the leaker.

Tell Shorten to try Laurie Oakes impression on Swan. Shorten asks why Swan? Totally confident Swan is not leak.

Swan calls. Says Bill Shorten was just on phone pretending to be Laurie Oakes. Ask Swan what gave it away? Swan says impression was perfect and he would have fallen for it, if Bill Shorten hadn't kept referring to himself as Bill Shorten. Shorten unhelpful.

8:30pm

Get Kid to call Rudd. Surely of all people Rudd wouldn't mind being called by staffer. Tell Kid to be subtle. Put Rudd on speaker phone.

Kid: Hello Mr Ex-Prime Minister. I'm calling on behalf of Ms Gillard. How are you?
Rudd: I'm... okay.
Kid: How's the weather?
Rudd: It's great.
Kid: How's the campaign going?
Rudd: Quite good.
Kid: ...
Rudd: ...
Kid: Are you the Cabinet leak?
Rudd: F**k off!

Stupid Kid!

9:00pm

Faulkner says leak is not crisis but opportunity to solve gender problem. Gillard was just ensuring policies were fully costed. Gillard can position herself as neither feminist nor anti-feminist, but "frugal feminist".

Gillard likes plan.

WEDNESDAY 28/07/10

Morning

Faulkner plan works perfectly. Media declaring press conference Gillard's "best ever performance".

Wondering if Faulkner is leak? Part of his master plan?

Kid just bought excellent breakfast! Big Mac and giant coffee. Kid has future in party!

This entry originally published at BigPond News as part of their Federal Election 2010 coverage.
MONDAY 26/07/10

Morning

Nick Minchin joins Abbott on the campaign trail. I struggle to keep up with discussion of news but have been avoiding all media so I can watch tape of MasterChef finale without knowing result.

Abbott Press Secretary (APS) reports great news: up to 800 asylum seekers en route to Australia.

Minchin wants dual message sent.

1. To the electorate: Liberals will stop the boats

2. To the people smugglers: get in now! Election is equivalent to closing down sale.

Asks if anyone knows what kind of media asylum seekers listen to?

APS to investigate how big twitter and Facebook are in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

What's twitter?

Abbott says Nauru needs to be locked in. Asks me to arrange meeting with Nauru for Scott Morrison. Ask why me. Abbott replies: "You're the Shadow Minister for Future Building and Values, and the value dearest to Liberal hearts is stopping the boats."

Afternoon

Chat to journos, distinct lack of warmth. Weird.

Call from Campaign Manager (CM). Says we are facing public relations disaster. Asks:

"Why are you denying journalists booze on Abbott's press plane? Who the f**k do you think we are, Family First? How can we expect good coverage on a dry plane???"

Apologise repeatedly to CM for amateur mistake. If I'd been aware, it would never have been allowed to occur. Am passionate about right to booze.

Talk to APS about lack of alcohol. APS doesn't see how drunkness contributes to free press. Tell APS that's the point. Sober, bitter journalists, more likely to be write probing, and critical articles.

APS happy for me to sort it out.

Evening

Talk to Alexander Downer regarding Nauru, says it's just like a country town but with Foreign Minister. Downer's Nauru contact is a guy named Keke, can't recall if he's Foreign Minister or hotel concierge, either way will be able to put me in touch with President.

Downer asks if I watched MasterChef? Cover ears and walk out.

Arrange meeting in Brisbane tomorrow, between Bishop, Morrison and Keke.

TUESDAY 27/07/10

Early Morning

Campaign meeting in Mackay. APS says someone has leaked Keke meeting to Bishop! Minchin aghast! Accept blame, confused, thought Bishop was Shadow Foreign Minister. Minchin says Bishop's role as Shadow Foreign Minister is purely symbolic. APS makes me fly to meeting in Brisbane.

Morning

Meet Keke in transit lounge. Says he was Foreign Minister last week. Sends text to make sure - he's now Foreign Minister and Trade Minister!

Keke says no barriers to reopening detention centre, says asylum seekers could arrive tomorrow. Only minor problems to resolve like water. Keke proposes expanding detention centre, perhaps with casino? Keke also believes Nauru could shoulder expanded intake, wonders if asylum seekers who arrive by plane could be sent to Nauru? Also happy to process international students.

Bishop begins agreeing on processing international students. Pretend to choke on peanut to end meeting.

As Keke is leaving says he was amazed Adam won MasterChef.

Really need drink.

This entry originally published at BigPond News as part of their Federal Election 2010 coverage.

MONDAY 19/07/10

Morning - Campaign Headquarters

Arrive for first day as campaign manager.

Spent morning running Prime Minister (PM) through hand-eye co-ordination tests. Always important for politicians to avoid dropping babies but, for Gillard, a 'baby bounce' would be catastrophic, empty fruit bowl and all.

Midday

Play game of paper, scissors, rock with National Secretary. Lose. Call Bob Brown to finalise preferences deal.

Brown says he hates backroom dealings.

Ask Brown if he wants Labor's preferences.

Brown says Labor's policies are gutless and shameful.

Ask Brown if he wants Labor's preferences.

Brown says that only the inherent flaws in the electoral system make such conversations necessary.

Ask Brown if he wants Labor's preferences and say if he doesn't I have Stephen Fielding on speed dial.

Brown just wants to be clear he doesn't enjoy speaking to me.

Inform Brown that, on that issue at least, we concur.

TUESDAY 20/07/10

Up at 5am. Prawn crackers for breakfast. Drink old coffee - pretty sure there was wine in there.

Meet people, people are annoying, hate people.

WEDNESDAY 21/07/10

Same as Tuesday, but no prawn crackers.

THURSDAY 22/07/10

Meeting to finalise climate change policy. Gillard suggests MyClimate website. Thinks that giving Australians the ability to go online to see how far underwater their house could be in 40 years, would really empower them. Faulkner wonders if it's wise to create a website that shows people's homes flooding, without proposing a policy to prevent flooding.

Faulkner against Citizen's Assemblies. Unclear why Parliament can't consult. Tell Faulkner that Citizen's Assemblies are a necessary step to help ignorant (ordinary) people learn about climate change issues. Assembly will do for climate change what MasterChef has done for cooking. We want people to look at the Assembly members and think, "If she can understand the CPRS, so can I".

Everyone agrees Citizen's Assembly is least worst option.

FRIDAY 23/07/10

Morning

Healthy breakfast: can of peaches and Cherry Ripe. Fruit salad!

Gillard did good job launching Citizen's Assembly. Finally put to rest accusations we have no climate change policy.

Evening

Bob Brown calls. Reconsidering preference deal in light of Citizen's Assembly. Ask Brown how other Greens Senators feel about impending unemployment? Brown asks if Greens voters will be in Assembly. Tell Brown that Greens are to real Australians what tofu is to meat.

Tell Brown that I don't care if Citizen's Assembly is unpopular. Sometimes you have to stand by your principles and ours is beating Tony Abbott.

Brown tells me that, on that issue at least, we concur.

SUNDAY 25/07/10

Morning - Debate prep

Gillard is amazing. She's innately gaffe proof. Welsh must be naturally resistance to spontaneity. Reckon her first words as a child must have been "moving forward".

Lunchtime

Long afternoon meeting to finalise debate tactics.

Passionate disagreement as to Gillard's choice of outfit. Fashion policy top issue for several key demographics and Party Pollster has produced excellent report. Turns out most voters associate pants-suit with strong border security.

Gillard Press Secretary (GPS) suggests green jacket. Thinks green jacket with red hair could appeal to inner city voters in way policies probably won't. Pollster agrees that left-wing inner city voters respond well to bright colours.

Put case that green jacket will increase focus on absence of green policy. Pollster agrees, marginal seat voters consistently prefer white or black. Go with white.

7:00pm

Arrive at studio for debate. GPS goes white, points.

Bishop is wearing same jacket as Gillard.

Jesus! Gillard must have jacket that emphasises difference to Bishop, given policies don't.

GPS brings out new jacket.

I call over Work Experience Kid (Kid), don't want to know his name, better to not get attached. Give Kid tainted jacket. Tell him to burn it.

Disaster averted. Can't believe greatest Liberal threat to PM's image in first week of campaign came from Julie Bishop. May have underestimated her.

7:15pm

Tell Kid to watch debate for me and tell me who wins. Kid asks if he should write down everything Abbott and Gillard say. Tell Kid he can watch it on mute for all I care, what they say doesn't matter - what matters is who wins.

7:30pm

Meet with GPS and Pollster to plan hospital visits. GPS wants Gillard with expectant mothers. Emphasise to GPS I do not want Gillard near overly-expectant mothers. If mother goes into labour and Gillard is photographed struggling to help with baby delivery, could highlight Government's problems with policy delivery. Media would have field day with 'labour' related puns.

8:00pm

Kid comes back with copious notes on who won debate. Ask where his worm data is. Kid didn't look at worm, too busy making notes on candidate's positions. Stupid Kid! Demand to know who he thinks he is, an ABC journalist? Throw notes out, check twitter and start calling journalists to claim victory.

One hour later

Most journalists really positive about Abbott's performance.

Laurie Oakes particularly emphatic that Abbott won. Demand explanation as to why Oakes' view should be preferred to worm. Oakes says debate nothing but platitudes. Suggest to Oakes he did not watch debate. Accuse Oakes of relying on smarmy, pre-prepared lines and notes.

Oakes resents being compared to Tony Abbott.

Hang up.

MONDAY 26/07/10

5:00am

Have Nando's Chicken for breakfast. Take shot of chilli sauce for extra pep.

7:10am

Arrive at hospital. Panic. Forgot to arrange policy to announce! Brain storm possible policies. Impossible to decide with no worm to judge quality.

7:20am

Call Swan. Swan has contingency plan from Rudd era. Has secret list of policies he budgeted for but never told us about.

Swan offers $1.5 million to re-paint emergency rooms. Abuse Swan at length. Swan offers me $96 million to train emergency room staff. Ask Swan if I can have something else to go with it? Swan finds these early morning policy booty calls demeaning. Swan asks who I think he is? Paris Hilton?

Apologise to Swan. Deliver policy to PM. Remind her not to drop any babies.

This entry originally published at BigPond News as part of their Federal Election 2010 coverage.
FRIDAY 23/07/10

Morning

Back from overseas holiday. Haven't read newspaper in two weeks. Really didn't want to come home but wife wanted to host MasterChef party on Sunday. Turn on work mobile. 112 missed calls. Look at newspaper. Oh sh*#..

Pour myself drink and call Party Headquarters. Campaign Manager (CM) demands to know where I've been. Says that as Shadow Minister for Future Building and Values, I have responsibility to the party. CM needs me out there selling the message.

Afternoon

On campaign trail. Decide to multi-task and start campaign at Coles to pick up some MasterChef groceries for wife. Find balancing campaign issues list and groceries list real challenge.

Guy in liquor store tells me I have his vote - still angry about alcopops. Girls at deli ask if I will bring back Workchoices? Say that once you've been burnt you stay out of the kitchen. Girls ask what that means? Order some ham.

Chat to guy in bakery. He's worried about price of grain. Says people buy less bread when it's more expensive. Wants to know Liberal policy on bread. Repeat party line: that Labor party has wasted taxpayer money building school halls, which it then burnt down with faulty batts thus placing upward pressure on grain prices. Baker asks how I'll fix it. Tell baker I'll take real action, like stopping the boats. Always good to tick that box!

Baker asks how boats relate to grain. Ask for a loaf of sour dough bread. Phew! Must always combine campaigning and shopping in future.

SATURDAY 24/07/10

Morning

CM calls. Wants me to join Abbott on the campaign trail to keep an eye on him. Ask if I will still be able to host MasterChef party on Sunday night. CM says that unless guests all happen to be journalists in the press gallery, probably not.

Afternoon

Finally get courage to tell wife I won't be attending her MasterChef party. Wife furious, demands to know how Gillard can claim to be the woman's candidate when she's holding the debate on a night this important?

SUNDAY 25/07/10

Morning

Arrive at debate prep in Canberra. Abbott pleased to see me, is hoping my experience in Future Building will help rebut Gillard's 'moving forward' slogan.

Abbott makes joke about Workchoices: says he cremated it just to make sure it wouldn't rise from the dead. Recalling Abbott's catholicism, I suggest maybe Workchoices is "dead through crucifixion, covered by a boulder, but will rise again three years hence." Tony laughs, but Abbott Press Secretary (APS) goes ballistic! Says jokes about 9/11 and Bindi Irwin would be better at this point than jokes about Workchoices.

Evening

Debate was extremely tedious.

Call CM to report. CM says he can't talk right now. Ask CM if he saw debate. CM says he's busy. Hear Matt Preston in background, and then wife! Ask CM if he's at my MasterChef party?!?! CM hangs up.

Going to be long month.

This entry originally published at BigPond News as part of their Federal Election 2010 coverage.