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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.
Shadow Minister for Future Building and Values


TUESDAY 08/02/11

8:00am

Enjoying bacon and egg roll for breakfast.

Bernardi bursts in. Enquires if I’m certain that the bacon was not butchered using barbaric 6th century methods in the name of Allah? Can never be too careful when it comes to Halal bacon.

Pretty sure Bernardi has never said “Hello” or “How are you” to me.

Bernardi suggests I stay alert and alarmed. The Islamists are infiltrating sandwiches throughout the Western world.

9:00am

Shadow cabinet meeting to discuss budget cuts to pay for floods.

Abbott proposing cuts to Indonesian aid over next three years.

Turnbull speaks passionately of “the great Australian mission to improve the lot of others and to help the spread of liberal values throughout the world.” Joyce begins snoring halfway through. Applauds self at end.

Bernardi feels we can rebuild Queensland by raising GST on Halal food to same level as alcohol and cigarettes. Says “Muslims are better to tax than smokers – the Koran tells them they have to eat Halal meat, and there are no Halal patches.”

Bronwyn Bishop likes the idea. Suggests a burqa tax.

Bernardi worried burqa tax would legitimise burqa.

Abbott grateful for such innovative policy proposals. Is tired of people who just march around saying No (looks at Turnbull). Nonetheless feels he must oppose all taxes, even taxes that are so fair dinkum.

Julie Bishop says reducing Indonesian education aid is bad.

Really approve of Bishop’s brevity.

Hockey worried. Never really saw himself as the guy that takes money away from Indonesian kids. Also, can’t see himself defending it on Sunrise.

Robb steps in and, speaking at farmer's pace, says: “The Government has a three year term. In this three year term the Government makes all decisions on spending. That’s how "the Constitution" works. This means whatever we cut, won’t really be cut. What’s important is that we don’t upset any voters by theoretically cutting something they support. Indonesian children are cute, Joe, but are both too young and too Indonesian to vote.”

Hockey confused: So we’re not cutting anything?

Abbott: Yes and No.

Hockey: What?

Abbott: We aren’t cutting anything. We are just saying, if we were the Government right now, we would cut Indonesian school aid. But we’re not. So we’re not.

Hockey gets it. Thinks Mel will be okay with it.

Cabinet votes in favour of cuts. I vote against.

9:00pm

On phone with wife. She is extremely angry about cuts to Indonesian aid. Asks if I have forgotten that her Indonesian pen-pals are teachers?

Explain how hard I worked to convince Turnbull and Bishop to oppose the cuts.

Wife is so proud of me.

Phew, hate sleeping on couch.

WEDNESDAY 09/02/11

5:00pm

Scheduled to have meeting with Abbott and Wyatt Roy about youth issues.

Abbott Press Secretary (APS) arrives. Says Abbott will not be coming to meeting.

Ask why.

APS says: Sometimes Mark Riley happens.

THURSDAY 10/02/11

Morning

Abetz in.

Asks why I voted to keep Indonesian aid.

Explain I’ve enjoyed many holidays in Indonesia. Besides, cuts made me feel icky.

Abetz says someone leaked shadow-cabinet deliberations and he knows who it is. Abetz stares at me.

Ask Abetz who it is.

Abetz says they know who they are.

Agree with Abetz, the leaker almost certainly knows who they are.

Abetz nods slowly. The leaker knows who they are and Abetz knows who they are.

Ask Abetz if he’s the leaker?

Abetz asks what I’m suggesting?

Tell Abetz I thought this was one of those logic challenges philosophy undergraduates play. Promise Abetz if I see someone leaking I’ll tell him who they are.

Abetz says you can’t see a leak, you can only a hear a leak.

Abetz leaves.

Think Abetz may not trust me.

Afternoon

Tried to see Abbott. APS said he’s still feeling riled.

FRIDAY 11/02/11

9:00am

Bump into Abbott in men’s room. Abbott silently staring at mirror. Shuddering.

3:00pm

Bernardi again. Asks if he can use bathroom in my office. Says he cannot use the toilets near his office because they all have signs saying they are “Muslim male washrooms”. He considered using the women’s but that would be totally gay.

Let Bernardi pee.

5 minutes later

Pyne in. Asks if he can put “Muslim male washroom” sign on bathroom. Says it is part of an “impish prank” he is playing on Bernardi.

Think we are lacking focus this week.

MONDAY 14/02/11

Bernadi, again. Says he has clever prank to play on Pyne. Plans to punch Pyne in face.

Suggest changes to prank involving chilli and Pyne’s lunch. Bernadi lights up! Will buy Pyne Halal sandwich with chilli in it, THEN punch him in face. Strongly suggest Bernadi focus on non-violent elements of prank. Bernadi agrees - if he resorted to violence, he would be no better than the Islamists.

Later

Abbott back to normal. Completed two triathlons over weekend, to clear head. Totally over Mark Riley’s cheap shot, and is ready and raring to attack Labor over Christmas Island funeral rort.

Glad to hear Abbott is back on game. Ask how funerals have been rorted.

Abbott says refugees were flown all the way from Christmas Island to mainland for funerals.

Ask what rort was? Did they fly first class?

Abbott likes my question. Thinks the first class thing will add an extra kick to this story.

TUESDAY 15/02/11 

Midday

Hockey storms into office. Is tearing up. Has been on phone to Mel and Kochie. Hockey isn’t entirely sure why he went into politics, but he’s pretty sure it wasn’t to close Indonesian schools and attack the family members of dead refugees on the day of their funeral.

Hockey wants me to back him up in confronting Abbott and Morrison.

Ask Hockey if he’ll buy me lunch. Hockey nods.

1:00pm

Confront Abbott and Morrison. Hockey pokes Morrison in chest and says he has crossed the line.

Morrison says: You’ve got to be tough, to stop the boats. These funerals are the end result of people smuggling. Paying for them just encourages asylum seekers to get on leaky boats, thus leading to more funerals.

APS says it’s like rolling out the welcome hearse.



Hockey explains if he were in Government he would never feel comfortable denying someone the right to go to a relative’s funeral.

Abbott agrees completely. Morrison says absolutely. If we were in Government, it would be shocking not to pay for travel to funeral. Morrison asks Hockey: What kind of monsters do you think we are?

Hockey calms down, will call Mel and Kochie back.

5:00pm

Wife calls and explodes over funeral issue. Demands I challenge for leadership.

Explain to wife that Hockey and I have extracted promise from Abbott to pay for future funerals.

Wife very pleased again. Says she’ll get right on phone to friend at The Australian. They were so helpful in running the story about shadow-cabinet leak about Indonesian aid.

End call.

Holy crap. Abetz was wrong and right at the same time. I was the leak, but I did not know who I was.

Really good logic puzzle.

6:00pm

Pyne in. Suit splattered with chilli. Says Bernadi tried to give him cold kebab for breakfast and when Pyne refused he threw it at him.

Pyne and I both agree, hard to believe party is 8 points ahead in polls.

This entry also published at The Punch.
SATURDAY 05/02/11

8:15am

Back from holiday. Glance at briefing papers on bus ride into office. Don't think I missed much. Apparently Rudd did some photo ops during the QLD flood crisis, but otherwise just routine Foreign Minister stuff.

Read the newspaper on my iPad. Another scandal for NSW Labor. Yawn.

9:00am

Office in a flurry! Rudd demanding hour-by-hour progress reports on flood re-building, minute-by-minute updates of situation in Egypt, and background research for his phone call with Maldives about spot on Security Council. They don’t have a vote – but Rudd thinks it’s good to get practice in.

10:00am

National Security Adviser (NSA) asks to borrow my hairbrush. Incredibly weird, especially considering he’s bald.

11:00am

Lucas (Mini-Rudd) is at his desk, using Facebook. Explains he is expressing solidarity with people of Egypt by attending virtual ‘March of Millions’.

Ask what that will achieve.

Mini-Rudd unclear, but feels he owes it to Egypt to spend at least ½ hour liking comments on the wall. When his children ask what he did for the Egyptian revolution will be able to tell them he stood e-shoulder to e-shoulder with Egyptian people.

Point out to Mini-Rudd he is sitting down. Yank out power chord. Give him stack of files to photocopy.

Mini-Rudd asks if I need reminding that he is Chief of Staff.

Tell Mini-Rudd, seeing as he is 22 years old and completely useless, yes I will need to be reminded quite often.

11:30am

NSA brings all of us coffee. How nice of him.

11:45am

NSA took our cups! Was nice of him to clean up, but I actually hadn’t finished.

3:00pm

Call from Queensland Electorate Officer (EO). Korean students standing in lobby. Looking for luggage. Asks whether I have it? Ask EO if she is on drugs. Why would I have luggage of Korean students? EO sends me link to ABC News video.

3:10pm

Video shows reporter Scott Bevan interviewing Rudd as he rescues luggage of Korean students from rising floodwaters.

Wondered what those bags in meeting room were.

Damn. All press is good press until it ends in theft charges.

3:30pm

Talk with Rudd.

Rudd glad hear to Korean students survived. Happy to give luggage back…at ceremonial handover in Canberra. Tells me to arrange flights and call Scott Bevan. Should be great follow up story for him.

Glare at Rudd. Ask him who will be paying for flights. Rudd says Therese will cover it.

Consider resisting Rudd further, but pretty sure this story is going to be great chapter for memoirs.

4:00pm

Call EO.

EO says students are becoming extremely irate. They have been wearing same clothes for past week and, given high humidity in Queensland, they are tired of being moist.

Tell EO that Rudd has authorised her to give them as many Kevin 07 shirts as they need and that they are welcome.

5:00pm

EO calls back. Only Kevin07 shirts remaining are extra large. Tell Rudd. Rudd asks what problem is?

Sigh.

SUNDAY 06/02/11

9:00am

NSA asks to borrow comb from Mini-Rudd. Says my brush was too abrasive for scalp.

9:30am

Korean Ambassador calls. Put him through to Rudd. Listen on speaker phone.

Ambassador says that, while he is reluctant to make assumptions, several Korean students have accused Rudd of stealing their clothing and toiletries.

Rudd says he has been waiting to hand over luggage to students for the past week.

Ambassador clarifies, so he does have their luggage then?

Rudd says he’s been waiting for them to claim it! In Canberra.

Ambassador consults map. Clarifies that Canberra is 1000 kms from Brisbane? Rudd reassures Ambassador that they have received emergency clothing.

Rudd suggests hand over take place in Korea.

Ambassador thinks students would REALLY like stuff now.

Rudd appreciates Ambassador's candour, but wishes to remind Ambassador that if Rudd had not saved stuff, there would be no stuff, so in a way it’s Rudd's stuff to give back.

While Ambassador would prefer not to use the phrase ‘looter’, english dictionary does not supply alternatives.

Rudd appreciates Ambassador’s position and is happy to consider compromise IF Korea agrees to support Australia’s bid for Security Council seat.

Ambassador says he will discuss with Korean Foreign Minister.

12:00pm

Rudd, NSA, Mini-Rudd and I in crisis talks.

Mini-Rudd and I firmly in the “give the stuff back now” camp.

Rudd says if he learned anything from final months as Prime Minister it is “never back down”, whether dealing with miners or Korean flood victims.

NSA agrees. Need to send strong message to Korea. If we show weakness now, it could compromise future trade negotiations.

Mention possibility of Korean students calling their own press conference, in oversized Kevin07 t-shirts, begging for their luggage back.

Rudd to call Foreign Minister.

3:00pm

After protracted negotiations between Rudd and Korean Foreign Minister, Rudd has agreed to transfer contents of luggage to students immediately. Korean Foreign Minister agrees to raise Australia’s Security Council bid. Rudd will retain suitcases until students leave Australia in six months. Cases will then be returned to students in Canberra as part of “friendship ceremony”, to be covered exclusively by Scott Bevan.

6:00pm

Rudd holds staff drinks to celebrate good day. Rudd says he’s very proud, we all passed the test!

Ask what test?

NSA has carried out drug tests on all of Rudd’s staff and not one of us has taken ecstasy.

Of course not! Am indignant at comparison to NSW Labor. Besides, using drugs would have severely compromised our ability to handle stolen goods.
WEDNESDAY 02/02/11

9:00am

In Kerang, Victoria, visiting mother. Helping clean up house after floods. Damage has been extensive, and mother's insurance may not cover the entire bill. Mother is at least relieved that, as a flood victim, she will get an exemption from Gillard's flood tax levy. Maybe I should change my postal address to also avoid levy?

Go downtown for breakfast. Locals keep telling me I look familiar. Reluctant to reveal that I am an MP. Have already heard my quota of flood stories from mother. Decide to tell locals I work in insurance. Serious mistake. Pretty sure I would be better off pretending to be Greens Senator. Decide not to change postal address - don't want to end up representing these people.

10:30am

Get phone call from Abbott Press Secretary (APS) while lifting mother’s fridge. APS says I need to fly to Sydney immediately for flood levy strategy meeting.

Explain to APS that my hands are full helping flood victims.

APS says I am great Australian but unless camera crew is there, I need to drop what I am doing and get on plane.

Break fridge. Narrowly miss breaking foot.

2:00pm

Arrive at strategy meeting in Sydney with APS, Abbott, Hockey, Joyce, and Wyatt Roy. Is Roy here to get coffee?

Joyce gives report from disaster zone. Queensland infrastructure completely devastated - society in ruins. Almost as bad as New South Wales. Joyce believes that now more than ever, for the sake of the people of Queensland, we must fight against levy.

Abbott agrees. Says at time when mateship is the only resource Queenslanders have, we cannot allow Gillard to tax and squander it. Gillard is totally heartless, like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, but even more wooden.

I point out that Tin Man actually had biggest heart of all. Abbott says we do not have time to debate musicals while Queenslanders are about to be levied underwater. Roy concurs, says young people he knows are pro mateship and anti tax-on-mateship.

Confused. Unclear how even Labor government could tax mateship. Ask Abbott if Labor is putting tax on rounds of drinks? Abbott says worse than that. Labor is using floods to force all Australians to buy them a beer a week and we all know that given Labor’s record they’ll spill most of those drinks, making floods even worse.

Hockey thinks big four banks will use mateship tax as an excuse to raise interest rates on homes. Raising interest rates is not what mates to do mates. Joyce agrees. He has heaps of mates, many of them bankers, and not one of them would dream of raising his interest rates.

Abbott agrees, thinks broadening attack on levy to include banks will strengthen metaphor.

I have no idea what’s going on.

3:00pm

Abbott calls me aside, says I’ve been doing such great work as Shadow Minister for Future Building and Values that he wants to give me a Parliamentary Secretary.

Ask who.

Abbott points at Roy. Look around Roy to see if someone is behind him. Drat!

Abbott says Roy has ear of youth and is very enthusiastic.

Unhappy, tell Abbott that if I needed youth and enthusiasm I would have employed my 14 year old daughter. Pretty sure, unlike Roy, she actually knows some young people.

Abbott says I should definitely consult daughter, he relies on his daughters for advice about tech stuff like the national thingy network.

Going to be an exceptionally long year.

THURSDAY 03/02/11

Back in Kerang, trying to reattach fridge door using sticky tape. Reluctant to buy new one.

Get call from Abbott. Wants me to organise flood fundraiser. Tell Abbott happy to, will get wife involved, she’s great at that people stuff.

FRIDAY 04/02/11

Morning

Back in Melbourne. Wife’s book club is in lounge room organising a church fundraiser to take place at our house tomorrow. Will include bake sale and a silent auction of donated goods. Daughter’s school orchestra will provide entertainment.

Retire to kitchen to avoid getting involved.

Afternoon

Book club takes over kitchen for flood relief cooking bee.

Book club should be running country.

SATURDAY 05/02/11

At fundraiser. Huge number of people. Very large man sitting in my reclining chair. Everyone very generous. Really appreciate that wife and I are supporting flood victims. Small child standing on my piano. Parish priest offers church car for auction. Says while so many are suffering he’d rather take public transport. Finally everyone leaves. We raised $30,000, so I guess that's something.

SUNDAY 06/02/11

Morning

Call party head quarters to ask where I should transfer flood funds? Staffer gives me account details.

Afternoon

Call from Abbott, says I’ve made great start but that anti flood-levy ads will require much more hard work.

Ask Abbott what he’s talking about. Abbott says my $30,000 has already helped pay some consultants to put some great stuff together for a focus group, but still need to pay for air time.

Holy crap. Hang up phone.

Wife asks if I’m okay. Says I've gone as white as Phillip Ruddock.

Sit down. Ponder.

Option 1: Lie to wife in knowledge that if wife finds out, marriage over.

Option 2: Tell truth to wife in knowledge that marriage will be preserved but will be extremely unpleasant for foreseeable future.

Option 3: Sell own car and donate money to flood relief.

Faint.

2 hours later

On tram back from used car salesman. Had to throw in watch to get sale price up to $30,000.

Now on my way to Fisher and Paykel to buy new fridge for mother. Cannot believe I will also have to pay Gillard's bloody levy.

This entry also published at The Punch.